Decoration on lift in the ferry

So now it was time to go to sea. We had to board our Hurtigruten Ferry by 20:30 for departure at 22:00.

Decoration on lift in the ferryThe only Christmas decoration on the ferry. This was on top of the lift

Most of the sailing between ports would be at night so we would not see very much in the way of scenery or even just have a chance to watch the water. We had also been told that as we were travelling over Christmas Day, we would spend an extra night in the port of Ålesund.

Getting from the train station in Bergen to the quayside to board the ferry was not the easiest of activities. It was a reasonably steep walk from the train station to the bus station and we had been directed to go to Section G to catch a bus no.50 to the ferry. Guess what?! G Section was at the very highest point of the station and the only buses which were indicated on the board at the stop were nos. 441, 445, 450 & 453 so we assumed that the person who informed us meant to say 450

It was also deserted and just as we were wondering what to do next a bus with another no. (can’t remember what it was) stopped there. The driver was a really nice fellow who spoke good English. He told us that his was the only bus which went anywhere near the quayside and we would have a bit of a walk to the ferry. There was one other thing in our favour and that was, having been told that the fare would be 35NoK each, on enquiring if there was a reduction for Senior Citizens, the fare became 25NoK each. Never be afraid to ask for those special considerations, if you are over 60, as they are usually there but not always known about.

It turned out to be about a km walk from the bus stop to the ship terminal but we encountered a surprise on arrival. Although it was only 17:30 the queue for boarding was snaking out of the door. After about 20 mins we reached the Registration desk and they were extremely efficient. The whole process took less than 5mins and we were told to “go upstairs for safety orientation.” When we got there a movie on safety was being shown. We had hardly sat down when the movie finished and all the people went towards the boarding station. We assumed that we would have to watch the whole movie but we were simply told to go on board.

As the cleaners were running a half hour late all passengers had to wait in the lounges. When we finally were able to be in the cabin we were very disappointed as our tour confirmation said that we would have an outside, superior cabin. Well, I guess it was outside as it had a small port hole but if it was considered superior I would hate what to think what a standard cabin would have been like. We were grateful that it was for only 3 nights.

We both slept very well that night and woke to a cold, grey and rainy day. When we went up to breakfast it was announced that we could expect to experience some swells as we were going through the channel where the North and Norwegian Seas meet. Swells, there were, no question about that and it was at that moment that Trevor decided he didn’t feel that well. Poor man, he was very seasick so could eat no breakfast. From mid-morning until the ship docked in Ålesund at 12:20 we sat in the lounge in the hope that being able to see the horizon would help Trevor but to no avail.

We spent the next 2-3 hours walking around the town which is built into the side of a mountain, similarly to Bergen. It is known as the art nouveau capital as the town was rebuilt following a fire in January 1904 which destroyed more than 350 homes and left 10 000 people homeless. Considering that was in the middle of Winter in a town not far from the Arctic Circle, it must have caused huge problems for those who were left homeless as well as the city officials.

A very special invitation was made to the passengers by the Captain for that Christmas Eve afternoon – to accompany him and his wife to the service in Ålesund Church at 3:30pm. At 3pm about 200 passengers and crew gathered on the quay and we walked up to the church which is just 2 blocks from the wharf. It was quite an incredible feeling being part of this multi-national group going to a Norwegian Church to celebrate Christmas. The church is very big, seating 700-800 people and it was packed with standing room only. Even though it was all in Norwegian, I believe that all present knew exactly what it was all about and experienced the joy of celebrating together.

While in the church I noticed a model of a ship hanging from the ceiling and learnt later that this is quite a common practice in churches where many in the community build their lives around the sea. Our evening ended with a Norwegian traditional treat of ginger biscuits and mulled wine.

Model ship in CathedralModel ship hanging in the church

Although we had the extra day in Ålesund, unfortunately it was raining and very windy so we had to sit on the boat all day reading or watching the grey skies. We were due to leave port for Trondheim at 06:00 on 26 December but the weather was too bad – gale force winds and heavy swells. There were hourly updates on the planned time of departure until we finally left that evening! Even then it was rather treacherous as far as we were concerned. This meant that we arrived in Trondheim at 09:30 instead of 04:00. We disembarked here for an overnight stay, stepping from the ship into a blizzard! This was a real experience for ourselves from tropical Durban.

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