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Norway - Land of the Midnight Sun on Sapphire Princess June 15, 2019

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5 minutes ago, PurpleTraveller said:


Wow! That must have been amazing to see them more than once. I plan to see them in the future sometime, maybe in Norway or somewhere else. 


When we were in the Lofoten Islands our tour guide checked an app on his phone that told him that there had been Northern Light activity the previous night but because of the Midnight Sun and there being no darkness you could not see them. I had no idea that the Northern Lights can be there in summer! 


A friend of ours who lived in Alaska, said there was virtually some Auroral activity all the time. It's there at any time of year, but won't be spectacular a lot of the time. That's why we planned our timing carefully. I originally thought that the further North we were, the more likely we would be to see the Lights, but that isn't so. The area of the most activity is a band around the earth, centred on the North Magnetic Pole (not the North Pole). It passes over Fairbanks, but is much further north in Norway.


To see the whole sky covered in what looks like wafting curtains of light, was amazing, although the human eye doesn't detect much colour with the low level of the light of the aurora. Colours show up well in photos. I hope you see it well at some time in the future.

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Saturday June 21 - Honningsvag


My day started early when I was woken at 5.20am by the captain's announcement that we were sailing past the North Cape. I jumped out of bed (Yes, I know I'm on holiday 😀), threw on some clothes and raced down to the Promenade deck. It was a gorgeous morning and I was so glad that I had made the effort to get up. The North Cape was clear to see in the sunshine and I could even see the globe and North Cape horn (to the left of the cape in the first photo).








We arrived in Honningsvag at 8.00am and at 8.30am we made our way off the ship.


We had booked a North Cape Sightseeing Tour at 9.00am with Blue Puffin. (blue-puffin.com). Monika the owner of Blue Puffin had been great with her communication and answering questions over the last year and I was happy to be on her tour.


I was even more impressed when I discovered that one of our lovely roll call members had discovered the previous day when she got her paperwork out for the tour, that she had accidently booked and paid for a tour on June 21, 2018! She had contacted Monika who had replied that she was fully booked but to come in the morning in case someone didn't turn up. That morning everyone did turn up (Monika had two full size buses fully booked) but instead of saying "Bad luck, your mistake" she gave up her jump seat to the roll call member and sat on the steps of the bus during the tour. What great customer service! 


We set off at 9.00am and our first stop was at Kamoyvaer, a fishing village. Here Monika explained how the fish caught were dried by hanging them up on racks. We also saw a smokehouse. 






From here we drove through the countryside past beautiful scenery to the North Cape. (Apologies for the reflection on some photos as I was taking them through the bus window.)












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Along the way we stopped to see a Sami man and his reindeer. Love the sunglasses! 








North Cape is the most northerly point of Europe that you can drive to. The true most northerly point of Europe is a short distance away but can not be driven to - it entails a long hike to get to it.


We had one hour and 20 minutes at North Cape. We were delighted to see that the weather was clear so quickly walked to the globe at the point of the cape. 




This is the true most northerly point of Europe in the distance. 




There was a very cold blustery wind and it was difficult to stand upright without moving to take photos. Just after taking my photos clouds moved across the cape and it was difficult to see much at all. 




We went into the visitor centre where it was lovely and warm and it was good to get out of the wind. We went to the cinema to watch a very interesting movie on the North Cape year showing the North Cape and surrounds during all four seasons. 


After we left North Cape we drove to Skarsvag to see king crabs. Monika got various king crabs out of a large tank to show us male and female crabs.








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That was strange! I have no idea why the last post posted twice but I think I have got rid of the second post now. 

Edited by PurpleTraveller

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we too have seen the northern lights several times but we were very lucky as it was when we were cruising around Iceland and they came around 10.30pm -11.30pm 3 nights running. They were directly above us like curtains of colour.

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We left North Cape and as we drove along saw a number of herds of reindeers on the sides of the road. 






Our last stop was at a viewpoint looking out over beautiful scenery. 






Monika handed out little bags of dried reindeer meat to everyone. It tasted just like beef jerky. We got back to Honningsvag at 1.00pm after a wonderful tour. Thank you Monika! 


Before going back to the ship we went for a walk around the town. We saw the statue of Bamse. Bamse was a St Bernard dog who was bought by the captain of the Norwegian whale ship Thorodd. He sailed wherever the ship went and then the ship was taken into the service of the Norwegian navy during WW2. After Norway was invaded by Germany the Thorodd escaped to the UK and after being converted to a minesweeper was stationed in Montrose and Dundee Scotland. Bamse became the mascot of the Free Norwegian Services and was known everywhere he went. He died on July 22, 1944. There is the statue of him here in Honningsvag and also a statue the same in Montrose.




We got to the church just as a wedding came out and we got to see the bride in her gorgeous bright red dress. 






We returned to the ship at 2pm for a late lunch at the International Cafe and then left the ship again to go for a walk along the shore in the opposite direction to the town. We saw large drying racks with lots of fish on them and a fishing village. 










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After we returned to the ship we watched the Viking Jupiter who had been in port with us leave. From above the bridge we had a great view of Honningsvag in the afternoon sunshine and watched Viking Jupiter sail past the town on the opposite side of the peninsula.








We had dinner at the Horizon buffet and then went to the 8.00pm production show "Born To Be Wild" in the theatre. 


Throughout the cruise our days had been getting longer and longer. From a sunset at 10.52pm and a sunrise of 3.56am after Stavanger by the time we got to our Sea Day after Trondheim the sun didn't set. We didn't get true darkness for most of the cruise, just a sort of twilight. For four days instead of having Sunrise and Sunset times the Princess Patter showed "Midnight Sun". Very strange and quite amazing! 


So what do you do when you're at the top of the world and the sun doesn't set? You have a Midnight Sun party! 


We went up to the Sun deck at about 11.30pm not expecting many people to be up there but was I wrong! The deck was crowded and it really was a party. The band was playing and crew members were moving around handing out food and hot drinks. Everyone was having a great time and it was so much fun! 






We were very fortunate with the weather as it was a beautiful evening with no wind and clear skies. At exactly midnight the ship sounded its horn a number of times and everyone cheered. 


This is the Midnight Sun! 




After midnight we went back to the cabin and went to bed but just moments later at 12.30am the captain made an announcement that we were passing whales on the starboard side. Yes, you guessed it - I jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes and dashed down to the Promenade deck. I wasn't in time to actually see the whales but I saw a number of their water spouts. 


So my day ended as it had started! What a day! 


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3 hours ago, MicCanberra said:

we too have seen the northern lights several times but we were very lucky as it was when we were cruising around Iceland and they came around 10.30pm -11.30pm 3 nights running. They were directly above us like curtains of colour.


How wonderful! What time of year was it? I would love to see the Northern Lights while on a cruise. 


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It was mid September. We had a whole system of communication worked out vis CC. The bridge would notify one person who would notify 3 people who then notified 3 people each etc, etc. The captain had said it was highly unlikely to occur for our cruise but it did and the system worked well.

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On 7/12/2019 at 10:40 AM, PurpleTraveller said:

I was able to get this shot of Sapphire Princess. 










What an amazing shot 🤩

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13 hours ago, janina said:

I'm now convinced to do this cruise, sounds wonderful!!


Thanks. It was a wonderful cruise and I would recommend it to anyone who loves beautiful scenery. 


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12 hours ago, OhioDogLover said:

Great review.  Wonderful overview of this cruise.


Thank you for posting.




Thanks. I hope you enjoy the remainder. 

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10 hours ago, Geoffa30 said:


What an amazing shot 🤩


Thanks. It wasn't an angle that I have been able to take a photo of my cruise ship previously. Usually my ship photos are from sea level!

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10 minutes ago, FishinChris said:

Great photos!  Thanks for your review. 


Thank you! Hope you enjoy the rest of the review. 


Edited by PurpleTraveller

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I love your review and bright attitude.  Haven't yet been on a Princess cruise or to Norway, but def want to.

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Sunday June 23 - Tromso 


For our day in Tromso I had booked onto a tour that a roll call member had set up. It was a half day tour to see the scenery of the nearby island of Kvaloya with a local tour operator, Arctic Breeze. There were 24 of us on the tour in a 16 seated bus and a 8 seater bus. We were really looking forward to the tour and the communication from Arctic Breeze prior to the tour was great. 


The day previously we had received an email from them that the weather was going to be cloudy with some rain so to bring waterproof clothing but the tour would go ahead. 


That morning we made our way to the Intenational Cafe to meet the tour group at 9.15am as planned. 


As we walked into the Piazza we ran into the roll call member who had organised the tour. Seeing us prepared for the tour he asked us if we had received the email. What email? The email from Arctic Breeze the previous evening cancelling the tour!


What!!! The internet on the ship had not been very good and we hadn't received the email (I got it the next day). Apparently Arctic Breeze had cancelled the tour due to the forecast wet and foggy weather and didn't want to take our money if we couldn't see what we were expecting to see. They had not given the organiser the option of still going ahead with the tour regardless of the weather and just decided to cancel the tour. They said that they had tried to contact the organiser but when he tried to contact Arctic Breeze to ask them to reconsider and go ahead with the tour he had no success in contacting them. 


We along with the other 22 tour participants were not impressed! Arctic Breeze had left us in the lurch without a tour on a Sunday in Tromso where not much was open!


Oh well! Moving to Plan B we decided to walk into Tromso (about four kilometres) and look around the city and then if the weather was okay walk over the bridge to the cable car. We left the ship to find that it had started to rain lightly so we then went to Plan C to get the local bus into the city centre. 


Princess had a shuttle running to and from the city centre but once again they were charging USD19.95 per person and I was not willing to pay that much.


We went into the large blue tent by the dock exit and went to the Tourist Information booth. We found that we could get the #42 bus to the city centre. The fare was either NOK50 each way and you got the ticket from the driver or we could buy a bus day pass for NOK100 (NOK50 for seniors) which we could use for any bus trip that day, from the booth. We bought a day bus pass each and were told the next bus was at 10.27am.


We walked to the bus stop following the marked path and through an underpass that went under the busy road. At the end of the up ramp of the underpass was the bus stop and it took about ten minutes to walk there. There were about a dozen people already at the bus stop so we joined the queue. 


As time went on the queue for the bus got longer and longer until it went all the way down the ramp and around the corner and out of sight. Some people were walking past the queue and out of the rear door of the underpass as if they were going to the Botanic Gardens a short way away and then coming around the end of the underpass to cut in the front of the queue. There was no way all these people were going to fit on one bus and there was only one bus an hour! 


The bus came at 10.30am and there was a mad scrum for the door of the bus. We were okay as we were so close to the front of the queue and managed to get on quickly, tapping our day passes on the machine next to the driver. Looking out of the bus we could see people pushing and shoving in an attempt to get on the bus as the next one wasn't until 11.30am. It was mayhem!


The bus filled up and we left an awful lot of people behind. I felt sorry for the locals being squashed in the bus by all these cruise passengers due to Princess charging so much for the shuttle. The bus took ten minutes to get to the city centre with one stop for the Polar Museum, one for the city centre and another for Polaria.

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When we got off the bus in the city centre it was still raining lightly but it wasn't too bad so we went for a walk. Our first stop was the Catholic Cathedral which was built in 1861. I popped my head in the door but the Sunday service was about to start so I didn't go inside. 




Across the road was a pretty park with a bandstand and a statue of King Hakon VII. 




A bit further along we came to the Tromso Cathedral which was also built in 1861 and is the largest wooden cathedral in Norway. The Sunday service was also about to start here so I didn't go in. 




We walked down to the waterfront to see the bridge that went over to the Arctic Cathedral and cable car. We could see how low the cloud cover was so we decided not to bother with walking over the bridge and going up the cable car as we probably wouldn't be able to see much. We could also see the Arctic Cathedral. 






As we walked around I was pleased that the gardens still looked pretty despite the wet conditions. I think Tromso would be very pretty on a fine and sunny day. 




My husband and I had been discussing about how busy would it be trying to get back to the ship on the bus. My husband said that he had overheard a local man on the bus saying that there was another bus that went to the opposite side of the Botanic Gardens near the University. 


We went to the Tourist Information Centre to get some information on this possibility. The lady at the centre was very helpful and told us that it was possible to get either a #20 or #34 bus to the Science Centre on the other side of the Botanic Gardens. She marked on a map of the city where the bus stop for these buses is. On the map below I have underlined the bus stop in red. 




Then my husband had the great idea of asking her if there was a bus that we could take to the Science Centre that went around the island. Yes, there was. Bus #33 would take us around the southern part of the island to the Science Centre. She looked up the time of the next bus for us and also showed us a picture of the Science Centre on her computer so we would know where to get off. On the map above I have underlined the #33 bus stop in purple.


On the following map I have marked the #42 bus stop near the dock with a red cross and the bus stop for the #20, #33 and #34 near the Science Centre with a purple cross. 




For future cruisers an alternative to catching the #42 bus from the ship, if there was a really long queue, would be to walk up through the Botanic Gardens to the Science Centre and catch a #20 bus to the city centre or a #34 bus to the city centre via the southern part of the island. You would probably need to check the timetable beforehand to make sure you had options. 


We walked to the bus stop and at 12.10pm the #33 bus along and we got on. We were definitely the only tourists on board which was great. The bus went through suburbia before driving along the coast road on the southern part of the island where we had views across the water to the snow-capped mountains. 






We continued on past the airport and an industrial area where there were car dealerships and shops (all closed on a Sunday). When we got to the Science Centre we got off at the Planetariet bus stop. We really enjoyed our bus trip of the southern part of the island. The bus trip took about 30 minutes. 




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We walked downhill on a path through the woods and in just five minutes were at the top of the Botanic Gardens. 


It had stopped raining when we were still in the city centre and now the clouds were beginning to lift and the day became a lot brighter. The Botanic Gardens were very busy with cruisers from our ship and the Aida Sol who was docked in front of us. The Botanic Gardens are very close to the dock and were very popular.


As a horticulturist in the real world I was very keen to see the most northerly Botanic Gardens in the world and it was why I had booked a half day tour so that I could also go to the gardens. I was very interested to see the sub-arctic plants and flowers and I was particularly keen to see the Himalayan Blue Poppy. I had a wonderful time wandering around the gardens which were very pretty. You can see from a couple of my photos just how close the gardens are to the ship. 






















It took about 15 minutes to walk back past the bus stop to the ship. Despite the start to our day and the not so great weather I still enjoyed our visit to Tromso.


Just as we were departing Tromso the captain made an announcement. We were supposed to be sailing south through a very narrow passage which required an authorised licensed pilot to be on board. Unfortunately there was a mess up and there wasn't one available for us. He had requested permission to go through the passage with a normal pilot but this had been declined. This meant that we would have to sail north again and around the islands which would add 85 nautical miles to our original 234 nautical mile journey. This would result in us not being able to arrive at Gravdal in the Lofoten Islands at our expected arrival time of 9.00am. I was expecting him to then say that we would have to miss the port stop but he continued on to say that we would instead arrive at 1.00pm and instead of leaving at 5.00pm as planned we would leave at 10.00pm. The only thing was that we had a tour organised through a roll call member that was supposed to start at 9.30am but she was able to contact the company and they were able to change our tour to our new arrival time. 


We had dinner at the Pacific Moon Dining Room and after went to the 8.00pm show in the theatre which was Tracey Shield as Celine Dion.


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4 hours ago, kbklcamp said:

I love your review and bright attitude.  Haven't yet been on a Princess cruise or to Norway, but def want to.


Thanks! I would definitely recommend a cruise to Norway as we had a wonderful time. 

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15 minutes ago, MicCanberra said:

The photos are just wonderful.


Thank you. I love taking photos and took nearly 3,500 on this trip! 

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