Are the Northern Lights on your bucket list? Check right here for your best deal and packing check list!
Book Hurtigruten. https://www.hurtigruten.co.uk/ They have an excellent reputation. We liked that their ships are smaller, most of them carrying less than 600 passengers.
Also, look at what they promise: “We’re so confident that the northern lights will make an appearance during your 12-day roundtrip cruise in Norway between October and March that if they don’t, we’ll give you a 6- or 7-day cruise FREE OF CHARGE*!”
Are you wondering where to start? What you should pack/take?
Here’s my ‘wish I’d known’ checklist:
You can book directly through Hurtigruten https://www.hurtigruten.co.uk/
Go to https://www.hurtigruten.co.uk/our-ships/ to see which ships you feel would suit you best, both in terms of modernity and price. Obviously the newer ones cost more.
Choose your cruise, either the 12 day, Bergen to Bergen (we chose this one to give ourselves the best chance of seeing The Lights), or the 7 day, Bergen to Kirknes. Decide on approximate dates. If you are doing the 12 day round trip i.e. Bergen and back, go with the flight to Bergen inclusive option. It is cheaper and easier. https://www.hurtigruten.co.uk/uk-offers/norway-offers/ From GBP1124 right now! (March 2019)
(If you’ve left it a bit late – that was us! – it can be hard to get the booking you want as the deals go very quickly. N.B Also be aware that the price goes up the closer the boat gets to being full! So it is good to get in early. No need to panic if you have missed out with Hurtigruten though, because there are other good deals out there. We booked through https://authentic-scandinavia.com/ and they were excellent. They hunted for the best deal for us and even found us an outside polar cabin that was cheaper than an inner one. But none of them have a guaranteed view – luckily we did.)
Check if it has an en-suite shower and loo if this is important to you. Some of the older boats e.g. MS Lofoten don’t have these in all cabins.
Make sure that you are not near the engines. Docking is noisy. If you are near the engines it can be deafening and very annoying!
Expedition Team on board:
Make sure that your boat has one. MS Lofoten and MS Vesteralen don’t have them.
Our team on the Nordlys consisted of three highly qualified and very interesting people. Apart from the many excursions they offered, they gave lectures on the ship, which were most informative and a welcome activity on the days when we weren’t going ashore – and they were free on our cruise in March 2018. They hinted that this might change in the future.
N.B. Yes you will need quite a lot of stuff, but pack as light as you possibly can, as you will more than likely have to carry your own case on occasion. I wished I’d packed lighter.
Before you travel, if you’re on medication, check that you have all you need, as chances are, you probably won’t be able to get these easily if you run out.
No formal wear for dinner: with Hurtigruten you don’t have to dress up for dinner.
Sleepwear: cabins are warm, so summer sleepwear will be fine. You’ll only need a dressing gown if you don’t have an en-suite cabin. (I’d taken winter pjs so had to resort to sleeping in knickers and a t-shirt.) Slippers are not necessary either.
Thermal underwear: avoid cotton – you need a fabric that doesn’t retain moisture. There are many excellent products out there. Marks and Spencers have a very affordable range in a variety of colours and styles. https://www.marksandspencer.com/l/lingerie/thermals You may even be able to match your underwear with your outfits!
(I wore the thermal underwear I’d been given when I went to Antartica – good quality, but not fashionable – and looked a frump next to my friend, who had all matching!)
Bear in mind too that you’ll be more comfortable if you have looser than normal trousers and tops to wear over your thermal underwear.
Normal shoes: for wearing while indoors on the ship
Essential outdoor clothing:
A hat or two: wool, fur, one with ear flaps?
A very warm coat: preferably waterproof
Gloves, with ties: that can be attached to your clothing. You’ll be taking them on and off to take photos and it is so easy to drop them. This is a nuisance, especially at night, or if it’s windy.
(I had to improvise and attach mine to my sleeves with tooth floss!)
Thermal Inner gloves: These will keep your hands reasonably warm while you are taking photos. https://www.amazon.co.uk/ has a wide range and many are very reasonably priced.
(I bought mine through them for just over GBP10 in March 2018)
Scarves: good to have a couple of these
Good walking boots: with a good grip
Thick socks: wool is best
Crampons: basic ones to pull onto your boots. Amazon.co.uk https://www.amazon.co.uk/ have a good range. These are good to have even if you are only walking about in a town, because the streets and pavements can be very icy. If you are going on a walking expedition, you would probably be lent some by the expedition leader, but better to have your own.
(I bought mine through Amazon.co.uk and they cost less than GBP10 in March 2018)
A small back-pack: this is useful not only when you are travelling to your cruise ship, but also when you get off the boat to go on an excursion. You will carry a lot of things around with you when you go to the lounges, lectures etc. so it is even useful for that.
Cameras: your mobile phone; this is so handy for just snapping away. Also a good DSRL camera, and a tripod are essential if you want to take pictures of the Northern Lights. It greatly enhances your experience of The Lights as the colours are much more vivid in a photograph. See my blog post on this: https://footeloosefancyfree.com/the-northern-lig…ight-bulb-moment/ (I took my Canon EOS1300D and although an amateur, I got some reasonable pictures of The Lights and also good close ups of the landscape with the zoom lens)
Binoculars: optional – I didn’t take any with me and I didn’t really miss them.
Sunglasses: with a cord – it’s easy to put them down somewhere and forget them behind!
Ordinary glasses: if you w, also with a cord attached.
Lanyard: this is so useful to carry your room key around. You need to show your key for meals and when getting on and off the boat for excursions etc. If you haven’t remembered to buy one before you sail, you will be able to buy one on the boat, but of course it will be more expensive.
Make a checklist for when you leave your cabin. Save yourselves a lot of bother by sticking it up somewhere in your cabin. You can refer to it when you go on an outing, but it is also useful to check it when you are going to meals, or to the lounge, or to lectures, some of which will be on the deck. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget something!
For outings: Hat, coat, gloves (inner and outer), thermals, coat, boots, crampons, camera, mobile phone, binocs, reading glasses, sunglasses, purse, passport, tickets if going on an excursion, a small water bottle (or something to drink), room key and a small backpack to carry all your things.
For lounges: Camera, mobile phone, binocs, reading glasses, purse, passport, daily schedule of events on the boat (lectures etc.), journal, book, tablet, room key, backpack.
Happy cruising and I do hope you see the Northern Lights!