Touring the Lofoten Islands
Following our late night it is perhaps a little surprising that all of our guests are up bright and early ready to join an excursion through the Lofoten Islands.The ship arrives at Harstad around 8am and we have a private coach and a wonderful local guide called Catherine. The Furlongs team have specially asked for Catherine as she is an excellentguide! Not only that but she was born in Harstad to a Norwegian father and a Scottish mother, and she has a lovely Scottish accent! We set off. Our first stop is a medieval church on the Trondenes Peninsula. Stone masons from Scotland and England helped construct this church and the museum next door tells the local story from the Viking and Middle Ages up to the present day. The tour continues across Hinnoya Island. The weather is sometimes snowy and sometimes clear and we enjoy some stunning views of the fjords and mountains. Included is a 20-minute ferry across Gullesfjord. During the crossing we are served tea or coffee and a snack of local waffle and brown cheese and freshly baked cinnamon cake. The final part of the journey takes us alongside Sigerfjord and across a long bridge to the town of Sortland. Our ship, MS Midnatsol, has been sailing all morning and is approaching the bridge at the same time. Our coach driver times it perfectly and we are at the top of the bridge as Midnatsol sails underneath. The ship's cruise director and guests on board are out on deck waving flags and of course we wave back. The ship sounds its (very loud) horn and our coach driver beeps back (it is a rather weak beep and we hope no one notices). We thank our lovely guide, Catherine, and she thanks us for coming, and very generously thanks Richard (and his wife) for helping with the excursion. Basically that means we helped count people on and off the coach!
After lunch we dock at Stokmarknes, home of the Hurtigruten Museum. The exhibition is worth visiting as it traces the history of the coastal voyage service from the late 1800's onwards. Connected to the museum via a permanent walkway you may visit the ship MS Finnmarken, one of the early Hurtigruten vessels. Compared to our modern day MS Midnatsol, the original Finnmarken is somewhat smaller!
Around dinner time we dock at Svolvaer. Some guests go ashore to visit an ice carving exhibition or alternatively join an escorted tour to a small fishing village. Guests that stay on board ship then begin to notice a snow storm brewing. At one point the snow is so heavy we cannot see the quayside and we are only 10 feet away! Returning from their shore visit some folk seem to have around 3 inches of snow on their heads.
Most people retire to cabins promptly but those that stayed up were rewarded to another showing of the Northern Liights in the early hours. At least, that is what they told us.