Where sea eagles dare

Summer cruising in Norway
Summer cruising in Norway
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Thinking of soaking up some midnight sun? Book now says Joanne Ginley.

IT IS fast approaching midnight and the sun is still shining.

We are standing on top of Mount Floya, 421 metres above sea level, overlooking Tromso, one of the most the most northerly cities in Norway. In some ways it’s a bit disquieting, but it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime experience on a memorable cruise.

The midnight sun is visible here during summer, but to get the best deals on flights and accommodation it is best to book well in advance. Our first night was spent in the Rica Ishavshotel on Tromso’s harbourside with a room that overlooked the harbour.

It’s picture postcard stuff, as is the drive to the nearby island of Sommaroy via snow-capped mountains and a landscape dotted with wooden houses painted red. It’s a place people come to get away from it all and connect with nature. We are given a tour of the island by Kjell Ove Hveding, of Sommaroy Arctic Hotel, who gives us an insight into the area’s history and shows us some of its beautifully tranquil beaches.

We leave Sommaroy and head off for an afternoon of kayaking. We were paired up in two-man kayaks and no previous experience was needed for the trip. Out on the calm waters of the fjord it was so peaceful as we took in the scenery. We formed a small flotilla, staying mainly near the shore and afterwards we drank strong coffee and ate biscuits in the sunshine and had a well-earned rest.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given its location, Tromso has a large number of fish restaurants, including Fiskekompaniet where we enjoyed a memorable meal. There’s also no shortage of bars, but people should expect to pay higher prices for alcoholic drinks than at home, with a beer costing us the equivalent of around £8 in one bar we visited.

Later we boarded a ship to Trondheim, the MS Midnatsol, after a visit to Tromso’s Lutheran cathedral, known as the Arctic Cathedral, for a midnight concert. The music was beautiful. Back on board we headed out on deck as we approached the Lofoten islands and their stunning network of inlets and isles. During the voyage we transferred to a small fishing vessel in the hope of spotting some sea eagles. We were in luck.

A black speck appeared in the sky and as a member of the crew threw a fish for the majestic bird it flew close-by. Another descended, swooping towards a fish thrown overboard by one of the other crew members, while a third caught a fish in its talons before it even hit the water.

During the trip we were to come face to face with more wildlife. Out of the boat window we spotted what we were told were killer whales. Although it has to be said they moved so quickly through the waters alongside our ship we couldn’t see too much apart from dark shadows moving underneath the waters. On board ship life passes at a leisurely pace. There is a fine selection of food. At lunch we were treated to a buffet with a fantastic selection of hot and cold food and in the evening we enjoyed a three-course dinner. On our final night we raised a toast at the captain’s dinner.

During our journey the ship’s announcer kept us up-to-date with the sights we are passing, including the moment we crossed the Arctic Circle.

Hurtigruten’s ships as well as offering tourists a chance to see Norway also provide a lifeline to the communities they visit, transporting both people and goods from port to port. As we leave the ship for the final time we are sorry to bid our farewells to MS Midnatsol and the sights it has taken us to.

Joanne Ginley travelled to Norway with Hurtigruten. Call 0844 448 7601 or visit www.hurtigruten.co.uk

It runs a six-day voyage south, between June 1 and August 31, from Kirkenes to Bergen, from £1,104pp. The price includes full board on ship but flights are extra and can be booked via Hurtigruten.

Flying from Leeds Bradford Airport direct, it has two special charters that tie in with a 12-day voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes and back. 2014 departures are on May 4, priced from £1,982pp and August 22, from £2,112pp, including return direct flights, 11 nights full board on ship, transfers and taxes. Based on two sharing. Hurtigruten also runs a number of excursions including a sea eagle safari, March 24-October 15, from £88pp, kayaking in Tromso, May-August, from £129pp and others.