- Created: September 23, 2018 9:06 pm
- Last updated: September 12, 2021 3:01 am
- Distance 19,990,570.87 ft
- Time 1525 h 37 min
- Speed 2 mph
- Min altitude -1,660 ft
- Peak 5,299 ft
- Climb 107,756 ft
- Descent 107,753 ft
- Distance Instructions
1. Hamburg, Germany
We arrived in Hamburg by bus from Berlin and took a taxi to the cruise port. We didn’t take any time for sightseeing as we are familiar with the city and had spent a few days here earlier this year. If someone has never been to Hamburg I would strongly recommend spending a day or at least a few hours to get to know the city before heading to the ship. From downtown to Speicherstadt, St. Pauli and the beautiful harbor and waterways - Hamburg has lots to offer and it would be a shame to only pass through on your way to the cruise ship.
The Hamburg cruise terminals are centrally located and easy to get to. Check in and embarkation were stemless and before we knew it we were on our way
Looking out from the cruise ship from the top outdoor decks was lovely. We could not get enough of the beautiful views of the city, the lush green mountainous landscape around us. Alesund is a city as part of an archipelago so everything revolves around the water.
When we disembarked there was a Hop on Hop Off Bus at the terminal which we took around the city center, the Aquarium and to the Mount Aksla viewpoint on Fjestula. The view from here was breathtaking and despite the overcast was entirely worth the trip. There was also a nice restaurant up there serving traditional Norwegian specialties. The viewing platform is also reachable by foot up / or down a step walkway of over 400 steps which we did to return to the city. This offers more incredible views onto the archipelago as you make your way down and we even saw a Norwegian wedding photo shot along the way that was using the gorgeous backdrop for this occasion. Minutes later we were surprised by a big storm which made the steep recline a lot more challenging (though also felt very authentic Norwegian). We were soaked through once we had reached the city center and continued to stroll around town. Alesund city center is very cozy, pretty to look at and linger in and very easily walkable. There was no need for taxis or transport- we could walk right back onto the ship.
3. Tromso Norway
The Tromso port is located about 5 km from the city center so some sort of transportation is necessary. There were no hop on hop off buses at this time of the year but once you manage to get to the center of town it is very easy to get around by foot and see all major sights.
The ship offered shuttle busses to downtown Tromso for 20 per person but this was a rip off considering a private taxi was 25 euros (and can take 4 people for that price).
We splurged and booked a 1 hour cab ride around town. The driver, a lovely and informative Norwegian of Iraqi background took us to the famous arctic church, a mountain viewpoint across the bridge and many of the downtown sights. This was great because we got a personalized tour, saw some excellent spots not normally visited by tourists and could hop off for photos wherever we wanted. For the final drop off we asked the driver to end the tour at the Polaria center, an Arctic-themed experience centre and research aquarium. We stayed here for 2 hours watching the seals and their training, watched a movie about Svalbard and learned about Arctic life. Afterwards we continued strolling around the center of Tromso with its centuries-old colorful wooden houses and the waterfront with its boats and ferries. Tromso is a magical gateway to the Arctic and well worth a visit, including in the dead of winter when its high season for the Northern Lights and activities like reindeer sledding.
4. Longyearbyen Norway
Svalbard - an Arctic fairy tale at 78˚ North as close as you can get to the North Pole. A port like no other and a part of the world only a few will have the opportunity of going to. An archipelago in the high Arctic, its land shared equally between humans and polar bears. One of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas, and it's only 2000 souls who chose to do so and bare the elements year round. It’s hard to find the words to describe Svalbard... such extraordinary beauty. Rugged, remote terrain of glaciers and frozen tundra and an eerie quietness - absolute icy chilly quietness. What a blessing to be able to visit such a unique place.
We didn’t get much sleep before during and after Longyearbyen because we couldn’t help but soak up all the natural beauty around us. Also around one night before getting to Longyearbyen we had reached the midnight sun and walked around the ship at 12.30 am in complete brightness. This far north there are no clear boundaries between one day and the next as the sun doesn’t set during summer.
We wanted to make the most of the day and our 14+ hours in port and had arranged two shore excursions. First we took a catamaran ride through pristine Arctic nature to Barentsburg, a small mining settlement on the shores of the Grønfjord. This used to be a Soviet outpost and it looks like time has truly stood still here. The scenery here and on the boat ride is just breathtaking and even in summer there is a coldness that is hard to explain. We returned to Longyearbyen for a quick lunch and came back out in the early afternoon for an ATV safari through the Adventdalen, an incredible 30-kilometre long valley in Svalbard. I actually felt sorry for my husband having to drive as the area was so stunningly beautiful. We also visited the husky farm and were able to greet and play with the dogs - quite possibly the kindest and loveliest dogs I’ve ever met. After the ATV Tour we took some photos with the polar bear warning sign famous for Svalbard. It was a full day with sights and experiences we will never forget.
But there was another unexpected highlight awaiting us. Once the ship left Longyearbyen close to midnight and again in complete daylight my husband noted that it was going in the wrong direction. We were in for the surprise of a lifetime as the captain steered the cruise ship to Pyramiden and the Nordeskölt glacier - an unannounced detour that was so breathtaking it defies description. At 2 am the ship danced around the glacier as we watched in awe and while many of the ships passengers had gone to sleep, not knowing this would occur. We watched in awe - such extraordinary beauty surrounded by complete icy quietness. We stayed up past 3.30 am watching everything around us.
I'd recommend that anybody should do the same, see and do as much in and around Svalbard as you possibly can.
5. Honningsvag Norway
Honningsvag is a small fishing village of only 2500 people (much smaller than most cruise ships arriving here). The highlight of this port is the North Cape so many bus rides and modes of transport are offered. However, the area offers a lot which you can and should cover on the way to the Cape, so don’t just settle for a bus transfer. We booked a tour to the North Cape that included additional stops and activities. The drive was incredibly scenic through amazing Norwegian landscape. We stopped at a beautiful vantage point overlooking the fjord and at a little fishing town housing Santa Clause's home. We were in awe of the natural beauty surrounding us and saw wild reindeer roaming the mountain peaks. We also stopped to visit a Sami village (the Sami are an indigenous people of Northern Europe)and saw more of their reindeer up close.
Naturally, the most popular attraction in Honningsvåg is a visit to the North Cape. When you stand at the edge of the cliff with the iconic globe monument and gaze across the ocean there nothing but great emptiness around. Nothing but the Svalbard Islands separate you from the North Pole (a record that doesn’t mean all that much anymore when you just came down from Svalbard). With clean, crisp air and vistas that extend to where the sea meets the horizon, North Cape feels like the end of the world. With the unpredictable Norwegian weather we got in a photo just before it started raining and storming and spend the rest of the time at the cape inside the visitor center here with modern facilities, a museum and a restaurant that serves lovely cakes and amazing fish sandwiches.
On the way back to the ship we passed through downtown Honningsvag and stopped by the local church. It was the only building left standing in Honningsvåg at the end of World War II. We took some fun photos with some giant Norwegian trolls in the harbour before returning back on the ship and seeing the most incredible giant double-rainbow spreading out over the town.
6. Geiranger Norway
We cruised from Hellesylt to Geiranger into the beautiful Geirangerfjord, the most famous Norwegian fjord and one of the most spectacular sights in Norway surrounded by majestic, snow- covered mountain peaks, wild waterfalls and lush, green vegetation. Upon arrival we took a fantastic bus tour booked on Viator which offered way more than the cruise ship excursions (which just went up the mountain and back, no stops, and much more expensive). On the way up the mountains we stopped at Djupvatnet (Deep Lake) before continuing up a serpentine road to the Dalsnibba Mountain plateau, a UNESCO world Heritage site at 1500m above sea levels. This is a famous site pictured on many Norway postcards and we enjoyed incredible panoramic views of the fjord. After this, the bus took us down and up again on the other side of the fjord: to the Eagle Bend a winding road with 11 hairpin bends from which we had spectacular panoramic views stretching from Geiranger town back over the fjord and to the Seven Sisters waterfall.
We strolled through the small town of Geiranger back to the ship and left with it playing "Time to say goodbye", cruising back down the fjord past the seven sisters waterfall and the wooer waterfall on the other side. The two waterfalls face one another across the fjord, and the suitor is said to be trying to woo the sisters opposite.
7. Stavanger Norway
The ship docked in the heart of Stavanger, Norway’s fourth-largest city with a beautoful well-preserved Old Town. We had booked the ships excursion to the Lysefjord and hopped on a boat docked right next to the cruise ship.
The boat ride was beautiful and scenic - looking back at this day but also all others on this cruise makes one wonder how one country could possess so much pristine, natural sparkling beauty mixed with enchanted small towns and livable cities.
While we didn't do the hike, the ship drove us all the way up to the famous Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), located 604 metres above sea level and named the number one most breathtaking viewing platform in the world by Lonely Planet. We went a little further and were approached by a family of mountain goats that came running down the hill towards us in excitement once they spotted the boat.
Once back in Stavanger, we strolled around the town center with its beautiful and well-preserved wooden buildings and lively waterfront.
8. Hamburg, Germany
We returned to Hamburg with loads of happy memories. We did not do anything after disembarkation but to take a taxi to the bus station and return to Berlin