I decided to go undressed as I looked up at the Arctic night sky from the deck of the ship, wearing my evening clothes.
All the people around me were wearing thick winter clothes. But what do you do when you’re finishing your dinner and crying, “Northern Lights starboard”? I don’t remember them because of the snow in Norway – and believe me, there are many.
I was sailing along the Norwegian coast, looking for the aurora borealis on a Fred Olsen cruise ship, named the Borealis.
This ship is a step up from the 50-year-old Black Watch she replaced.
On board, there are more than 150 suites with balconies, and the restaurants serve everything from Sunday roasts and lamb chops to Indian and Asian specialties. There is also a full-sized theater where we were entertained with live songs, dance and comedy.
We set off from Liverpool, circumnavigating Scotland first before traveling across the North Sea to the Norwegian town of Ålesund and beyond.
White-tailed sea eagle
“I have to warn you . . . the radio says there’s a danger of the sun rising,” said grinning guide Liv as we set off to see the town’s famous art deco architecture.
With snow and ice underfoot and temperatures struggling to hit zero, it’s a welcome prospect.
Turns out Ålesund is just to get us in the mood for the chills that hit. As we sailed north the next day, across dramatic snowy mountains and across the Arctic Circle, the mercury dropped to -10C and continued to plunge. We’re heading to Tromsø and Alta, heading north into Norway, before returning south via Bodø, Narvik and Trondheim.
And along the way, I’m learning about Vikings, fjords and magnetic shields in talks about Norway and shipboard astronomy, walking along the snowy coastline and exploring the beaches. full of ice in search of the white-tailed sea eagle.
It’s a fascinating thing, and the coast is beautiful, if frozen.
But those are the elusive lights I’m after. So in Tromsø, I traded my comfy bed on board the Borealis for a cozy hut in the wilderness, with glass walls and a glass roof, meaning I could see the lights without needing to. move out of bed.
“You were supposed to be here last week,” said our host Thomas, referencing the aurora borealis app on his phone, watching the clouds roll in and shaking his head. By midnight, we gave up and turned around.
But the next day, I went back and tried to spot them again, in an aurora camp in the hills near Alta.
NORWAY has dropped all Covid restrictions, so passengers only need to fill out a locator form before visiting.
They must complete it before boarding. Fred Olsen offers a Travel Readiness Service that will do all the paperwork for a fee of £29pp.
Fred Olsen passengers must be fully vaccinated with two doses, with a booster shot at least seven days before departure.
They will be checked in at the station (for free) and allocated a “social bubble” for dinner. Masks must be worn when traveling on the train and indoors when on tour.
Tracking Safety belts, provided at check-in, should be worn at all times.
It calls itself the town of the Northern Lights – even the quirky looking church is named in their honor – so it’s definitely going to be my lucky night.
Uh, no. But the camp had a cozy Sami shack with a real fire where we could warm up after watching a guy armed with just a hammer and chisel slicing through a giant block of slate.
It’s more interesting than it sounds. Honest. Especially when he told me that I was the first person to touch the inside of the stone in 800 million years.
Alta is the northernmost calling point of the journey, but as we head back south, the best is yet to come.
Norway’s fishing fleet has been shut down, and so have hundreds of whales. There were fountains all around as we paddled and many whales broke the surface, swimming alongside the ship.
The call for the Northern Lights came that evening. I raced outside, pointed my camera at the dark sky – it could pick out colors the naked eye couldn’t – and took a shot. My image shows a green cloud with just a hint of orange. I’m excited that the mission is complete.
SSAYING THAT: The In Search Of Northern Lights 11-night cruise on Fred Olsen’s Borealis costs from £1,499pp, departing Liverpool on 13 November 2022 and visiting Belfast in Northern Ireland and Ålesund, Tromsø, Alta, Sortland and Bodø, all both in Norway. To watch fredolsencruises.com or call 0800 0355 14
https://www.thesun.ie/travel/8496748/voyage-to-northern-lights-norway-on-borealis-cruise-ship/ Look for the incredible Northern Lights on a cruise around Norway