Northern Lights Cruise with Saga – Chapter 8


“Red sky at night shepherd’s delight. Blue sky at night, day!”  Norwegian saying according to  Stuart Anderson. 

But today’s colour of the day – grim battleship grey. Not a lot of contrast with the low lying clouds, some just above the water. Only the red and yellow houses on the hillside lifted the gloom. That and the superb poached egg on toast served with a large minute steak at breakfast.

Narvik For once no sunshine to start the day. We have had wall to wall sunshine and perfect blue skies now for days. We have been spoilt. The weather should come as no surprise though. Today it is typical of the area and typical for this time of year. How lucky we have been not to have this weather throughout the cruise. We do seem to have won the weather lottery.

Hard to believe that in a few months’ time this area will be bathed in summer light. The deep red midnight sun will shine for weeks. A summer’s day in the Arctic Circle lasts for weeks as the sun stays above the horizon at midnight. 

Narvik is small yet perfectly formed. Situated on a peninsula surrounded by stunning fjords and mountains. Its harbour never freezes due to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream and as a result of this Narvik thrives.

20 million tons of Swedish iron ore are shipped from this ice-free port every year. It is the ideal export location. Wherever you look around the water you will see the letters LKAB. This is an abbreviation for Salmon and Grouse Mountain Co-operation. LKAB rolls off the tongue much easier. This mining conglomerate has got things down to a fine art. A 68 wagon train full of iron ore from across the border can be unloaded in six minutes! 

The Ofotbanen Railway was built in 1898 connecting Narvik to the treasure iron ore in Kiruna. Previous to the train iron ore was shipped using Reindeer. Once described as the 8th wonder of the world this was the northernmost and not surprisingly the coldest and harshest railway the world had yet seen. 

Narvik The line is spectacular crossing and cutting through a beautiful wild landscape. Rugged and inspiring, skirting fjord and jagged mountains and always with breathtaking views. And this was our choice for the optional excursion – we have never been to Sweden. 

A small group from the ship opted for a beginner’s lesson in downhill skiing. Coffee and cake the perfect end to this 2 hour introduction. 

The train journey was very popular so once again we were split into groups. Some went by train and returned by coach .We did the reverse driving into Sweden by bus.

E6, E10 are both food additives/colourants. But today these were the two roads we journeyed along to get to Sweden. E6 runs through Narvik town centre. The Narvikians always say that they have the longest high street in the world. E6 runs all the way down to Rome. Somewhere out of Narvik we took a right onto King Olav’s road (E10) and drove through a beautiful untouched white wilderness. Gorgeous and stunning.

The two old dears sat behind us were moaning and complaining that “it’s all a bit samey, boring and cold” I wondered what they expected in winter, 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle?  A Caribbean calypso maybe with hula hula skirts in abundance. Life is never boring on a SAGA holiday. 

Narvik Cake biscuits and tea and coffee were waiting for us at Hotel Riksgransen just inside the Swedish border. This area is the legendary ski resort. A stunning setting made even more so by the high jaw-lined blonde haired beautiful people who had come to ski and snow board. We just needed an ABBA song in the background to add to the experience. 

A wander around the hotel shop showed once again how expensive Scandinavia is. The best way and one of the cheapest ways to do Norway is to book a SAGA cruise.

A set of Russian Elvis dolls were expensive. Tacky and costly. I don’t like Russian dolls. They have never appealed to me – they are so full of themselves.

There was a t-shirt on sale which did make me laugh. White with black writing – ‘sparrows that love to chirp won’t put on weight’. 

It was a short walk from the hotel up to the station to wait for the train. Bang on time it arrived and we had a smooth ride back to Narvik – amazing views from the large picture windows. Cameras clicking at every turn batteries running down very quickly. 

Narvik It was dark as we returned to PEARL II .The warmth of the ship was very welcome as was the hot chocolate again. 

A quick change and down to the Discovery Lounge to listen to The Diablo String Quartet playing opera favourites including works by Puccini and Verdi.

Once again a superb 6 course meal with a lovely complimentary rose wine. And then the highlight of the night. Back into Discovery Lounge for showtime ‘Music of the Night’. A great show of Lord Lloyd Webber songs performed by the resident Explosive Productions singers and dancers. This was a lovely sing-a- long to many of his hits including ‘Tell Me On a Sunday’ – a much underrated masterpiece.

A drink or two with Stephen and Lorraine, another couple from Doncaster and then a dance to music from The Saga Orchestra. And finally another drink, this time in Shackleton’s bar listening to the magnificent Stuart almost worth the price of the cruise himself. Glad he has got a further few months working with SAGA. A couple more cruises on PEARL then he will be found on SAGA SAPPHIRE. Do buy his cd – it is so good. 

Time for bed at midnight. Another day to remember. Another day to savour. And we still have Stavanger to look forward to. Stavanger is one of my favourite destinations in the world.

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Saga Holidays

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Dave Harcombe

Travelling pharmacist

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