Author: Lee Evans
Christmas Northern Lights Cruise 2013 - Great trip, great price and great way to get through the winder blues. We booked this trip back in September and I knew it would be dark over Christmas which I thought would be great as it would give more opportunities for seeing the Northern Lights. However, I was surprised that although you don't get to see the sun for five days or more, there is actually some light for a few days, even at the most northern part of the trip. The cruise suited us down to the ground, we both arn't great fans of Christmas and this was a good way to avoid much of the madness. There were a few things on board for the Christmas fans, such as christmas concerts, tree decorating, and a special Christmas meal but easily avoided if not your thing. The ship was a lot quieter than normal so only one seating for the evening meal. Food onboard was excellent, and if you are trying to lose weight, you will put it on hold a few weeks. Buffet breakfast and lunch were excellent, and although this isn't going to be Cunard standards, it was varied and something for everyone. The evening meals were a set menu, but again unless you don't like fish, they were excellent. The fish we had were always filleted and what I'd say were unchallenging fish, Salmon, Halibut, Smoke Trout - all perfectly cooked and presented. We got to share our table with a lovely couple and looked forward to comparing stories each evening. We had a cabin on the starboard side about mid ship on deck three, I'd strongly recommend you avoid the port side and more importantly the stern of the ship as the ship is visiting 4#four or five ports a day often in the early hours of the night. Although the sound insulation on the ship is excellent the engines reversing causes a lot of vibration at the rear of the ship. In our cabin we barely noticed the engines starting over the air conditioning, which by the way is easily adjusted in your cabin. Also, if you are worried about getting cold on ship - don't, the whole ship was very warm and the temperature was consistent all over, we ended up in just a tee shirt most of the time. A few people dressed up a little for dinner, I'm talking a shirt and tie at most, but there was no dress code and everything is aimed at being relaxed. There wasn't any planned entertainment onboard with the exception of a singer in the bar each night, so make sure you have plenty of books, DVD's or film downloads on your laptop. We spent many a happy hour in the observation lounge with a headphone splitter watching films as the beautiful scenery went by. We even managed it in storm force gales as 6 to 7m waves. Our tour guide Eskell was excellent and help make sure we got booked in the right excursions (we booked on the ship) and that events like crossing the arctic circle were well attended and fun. We can't thank him enough for the excellent work he did. Infact all the crew were great. Safety on board the ship was taken very seriously and you felt very looked after at all times. One thing we didn't realise was that once you had got to the most northern point of the voyage the journey back was as fast as it could be. This meant the journey back south didn't allow for more than one or two very short excursions, and perhaps only 30 minute walk in a few ports. Most people felt this was like an extended transfer to the airport and the holiday spirit started waining a few days before it was over! So leaving the ship in Tromso and organising something else and a train journey back south might suit. Prices ashore were expensive, but you expect that for Scandinavia, it is easy to avoid eating ashore, but one thing I know a lot of people found difficult was avoiding drinking. Alcohol is heavily taxed in Norway and this is reflected in the price onboard - a vodka and tonic can easily exceed £10 in the bar, a beer £7 to £9 - so bring your own! There arn't any rules about bringing alcohol onboard other than don't drink it in public places - so a drink in your cabin before dinner is fine. Make sure you have a decent layered warm clothing, the wind chill on deck even in warm above freezing can be a lot. And if you want to spend a few hours waiting for the northern lights your gonna get cold quickly. Good shoes as well for snow and ice. We didn't have too much problem but a few ports had sheet ice so snow chains or grips for your boots are recommended. Water onboard the ship was only provided at meal times. Although the water in your room is safe to drink we wished we had remembered our vacuum drinking bottle and filled up at breakfast when the cold drinks machine was available. We did remember a travel kettle and stuff for hot drinks in our room. Power sockets are 220 volts and the standard european socket. Power sockets are available if you hunt in most of the seating areas so if your laptop doesn't hold charge long make sure you have a power adapter. Internet on the ship was free and for a good reason - it was quite slow and really only any good for checking the odd email and sending. It would obviously vary depending on the time of day, and my partner stayed up until the small hours of the night downloading the Christmas special of Doctor Who! I had signed up for a 100MB per day data bundle with my cell phone provider for £2.50 a day and this worked well in all ports and most of the time on the ship except when we were well out to sea. Mobile phones work nearly everywhere for calls. I'm hoping some of the information above is useful- I know I spent ages looking through reviews for answers! I recommend this trip if you want to see a bit of Norway and the culture but dont want to spend huge amounts of money doing so. Sign up for as many of the excusions as you can afford, yes you can see the same walking, but your not going to be able to organise to see as much in the time, and the ship won't wait for you if your late. An expensive taxi trip if you miss the ship! I think we will definitely do this again but save up for one of the adventure trip to Greenland, Iceland or Antarctica if we come into some money!