I NEVER imagined my first glimpse of the Aurora Borealis would be quite like that.

Just as I was about to take the first sip of wine ahead of another fine meal aboard Hurtigruten’s Nordnorge ship, an announcement was made over the tannoy that the Northern Lights were visible on deck.

A few days into our seven day Norwegian cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes, we had crossed the Arctic Circle and were frequently checking an Aurora app on our phones for imminent light sightings. This was the moment we were waiting for. Wine and dinner had to be abandoned.

The friendly staff on our Hurtigruten cruise, sporting patient and knowing smiles, were more than used to this occurrence.

As the dining room rapidly emptied out and cameras were readied on deck in the cold night air, we got what we had come for. The sight of a swirling phenomenon teasingly dancing across the sky.

Snapping away on the rather excellent Northern Lights camera app we had been advised to download onto our phone, I could no longer feel my fingers, but it was worth it. The smaller size of Hurtigruten’s ships and relatively smaller numbers of passengers (596 on Nordnorge) means that you can easily carve out your own little peaceful area on the ship’s two large observation decks to marvel at the lights from. Although they look a florid green in photos, to the naked eye they are more of a pale orange colour. We were lucky enough to see them appear two nights in a row on our cruise.

So confident that its passengers will get to see the Northern Lights, Hurtigruten offers guests another cruise on the house if the star attraction fails to make an appearance. This assured sense of Scandinavian calm was fully evident throughout our trip.

And it was in full display when we returned to the ship’s dining room after the sighting of the lights. The lights’ appearance may have put back the dining times but there was no sense of urgency as we belatedly enjoyed our freshly caught Arctic Char from Sigerfjord served with baked beets, green cabbage, dill potato and hollandaise sauce followed by chocolate terrine with blueberry compote and lemon thyme meringue. Arctic char, with a more delicate flavour and smoother texture than salmon, is only found in Arctic waters and was one of the first fish to populate Norway after the last Ice Age. This meal was typical of the food served throughout the cruise. As we called into ports overnight, fresh fish and produce would be brought on board from local suppliers along the coast. On our last night we enjoyed fresh meaty king crab from the Barents Sea. Having viewed this fellow swimming around in its tank in the ship’s a la carte restaurant the previous evening, it was pleasing to enjoy the crab without fussy accompaniments, just an array of sauces, drawing no attention away from the purity of this sea monster’s delicious flavour.

The Nordnorge was refurbished in 2016 and features a modern, Arctic-inspired interior. On board are three different restaurants, the Multe bakery and ice cream bar, a sauna and fitness room. Out on deck you can enjoy the view from one of two hot tubs.

And spectacular views from hot tubs is the kind of memory making that Hurtigruten does so well. Its expedition teams are knowledgeable of the fjords’ points of interests, alerting us to the crossing of the Arctic Circle (at 7.30 in the morning one day we drifted past a post informing us of this) and the passing through of the amazingly narrow Trollfjord between the Lofoten islands and Vesteralen archipelago. We sailed down this otherworldly crevice at 11.30 in the evening, and with ship staff playing classical music and shining spotlights onto this natural rocky wonder, it felt like the kind of adventure you’d have as children in a story book after all the adults have gone to bed. Plus, as we watched, transfixed, with meaty fishcakes being grilled on deck by the ship’s chef which we enjoyed accompanied by Prosecco, it was a midnight feast that Enid Blyton could only ever have dreamed of.

The excursions we set out on as the ship journeyed further north became increasingly wondrous. With a choice at each destination, we did a sightseeing tour of spectacularly autumnal Trondheim - Norway’s third largest city - taking in the must-see Nidaros Cathedral, which was built over the tomb of St Olav, the Viking king who brought Christianity to Norway. Speaking of Vikings, we travelled off the ship to enjoy a Viking supper, where we entered fully into the spirit, toasting our dressed up hosts with mead and tucking into a hearty lamb supper while dancers took to the floor. An outing to a husky farm was rife with the cute factor, while a visit to the North Cape, the northern most point of Europe, silenced our chatty group with its ethereal Narnia-esque beauty and seemingly permanent near-dusks, where you could imagine the fur-ensconced White Witch gliding towards you on her sled.

One of the best things about coming in from the cold snowy landscape was returning to my comfortable accommodation. I stayed in a luxurious Arctic superior cabin with a double bed, two comfortable armchairs, bathroom and two large windows, looking out of which I could easily while away the minutes, wondering who lived in the colourful little waterfront houses - seemingly in the middle of nowhere - that we were sailing past. As a first time cruiser I had no inkling that this kind of travel could create such a desire to come back for more. But surely it would be greedy to want to see the Northern Lights a third time, right?!


Joanna Davis travelled on a Classic Voyage North on a seven days Hurtigruten Northern Lights Voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes.

There are daily departures all year round.

Prices start from £849pp for a classic voyage northbound from Bergen to Kirkenes – for a full roundtrip voyage of 12 days, this starts from £1249pp. Costs for a full board in a polar outside cabin including flights start from £1,199pp and Arctic superior cabins start from £1,499. See hurtigruten.co.uk