In March 2014, I joined P&O Cruises Oriana on a 12-night voyage to the Arctic Circle – a voyage that to this day remains one of my top cruise experiences.
We were eased into the cold weather conditions with a stop in Stavanger before heading north for Alta and then Tromso. Stavanger was a nice port to take a walk around, nothing exceptional, but after a few days at sea it was nice to stretch ones legs before the real part of the adventure kicked in.
We had a lot planned in Alta and it’s this port that I want to highlight for you today.
The delights began before we even reached port as the scenery was absolutely incredible. I remember opening the curtains on my balcony door one morning and no more than 50 metres away was a huge snow and ice covered mountain. It seemed to be rising up out of the ocean like Hercules – I had never seen anything like it before and I haven’t seen anything like it since. I was completely in awe of the landscape that sat before us.
We would spend 2 action packed days in Alta, starting with a visit to the Northern Lights Huskies. Such beautiful dogs, they really were! Very friendly, but a little bit smelly. It was interesting to learn about the competitions and how they care for the animals. The woman there clearly loved her dogs and they each loved her right back.
Our evening in Alta would prove to be one of the most spectacular evenings of my life. We left the ship around 10pm and made our way by coach to a golf course which was approxmately 30 minutes away from the port. It was pitch black there, nothing other than the natural glow of the moonlight to light the way – and the occasional pit fire. I think we had only been there an hour before we were given the gift of our lives – a show from the Aurora Borealis. It was magnificent, it really was. To the naked eye the Northern Lights were not much of any particular colour, aside from grey, and they whisked across the night sky like little bursts of smoke, however, through the camera lens they were an electric green. Someone was very clearly watching over me that evening because we really were incredibly lucky. The show lasted on and off for 2 hours. At almost 1:30am we decided to head back to the ship, by now the show had come to an end and we were starting to feel the chill.
Day 2 would be spent at the Maze Sami village, situated at the head of the Altafjord. It took around one hour to get there, maybe a little more, but it was certainly worth it. We were welcomed by a gentleman and his family, they were all wearing Kofta, the traditional national costume, and gave us a great insight into what life is like for the Sami people. They even served us lunch, which consisted of Reindeer stew (I wasn’t a fan, I felt guilty eating Rudolph) and then cake with cream and cloud berries – this was very tasty! After lunch we went out on a Reindeer ride across the frozen lake.
We left Maze behind and made our way back towards the city, our next stop would be Holmen Husky where we enjoyed a husky sled ride as the sun was just starting to set. This was a wonderful experience and something I will certainly never forget. The dogs absolutely loved it, they were raring to go! Two of ours had a little scuffle, but the guy shouted something at them in Norwegian and they were instantly friends again. There was one smaller dog in our team, a youngster in training I think because he was more interested in trying to eat the snow than actually pull the sled. He was a little cutie.
I wanted to share the Alta section of this particular trip with you because it was a cruise I thought I would enjoy, but then ended up falling in love with. It was pretty action packed, but I experienced some of the best shore tours of any cruise I have been on, and it may have been cold (really cold), but it was so worth it! I can’t wait to do it all again, and if you haven’t tried it then please consider it! Oriana is sailing two very similar voyages in 2016 – one departing in February and the other in March.
Images sourced via Bo Randstedt (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons and Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: PJ Hansen.