Norway Arctic Cruise – Day 0: Preparation

I cannot remember precisely what point I wanted to go on a cruise to the arctic, but it was in my teens, and for a while I obsessed about it. I actually remember walking into a travel agent in Northampton – where I went to college – and asking for some catalogues. By this time I’d already been wanting to go for some years.
There are probably a number of different factors around this:
  • I like the cold. I mean, I really really like the cold. My family calls me toastie. As we’ll see on the boat, I walked around outside in just a T-Shirt for nearly the entire trip.
  • I’m a huge Douglas Adams fan, and feel privileged to have actually met and spoken to the man himself. For those that do not know, Slartibartfast (from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), designed the Fjords of Norway.
  • I also love Monty Python, and although Michael Palin sang about Finland, not Norway, I think the countryside, Fjords and other beautiful descriptions of the landscape suit Norway just as easily.
  • As a fantasy fan, having read Tolkein, Feist, Howard, Moorcock and many others, the rough and barren terrain holds some kind of draw for me.
  • I do like being on my own, and I fully expected to spend a lot of time on the boat not necessarily in my cabin, but out on the deck with only my thoughts to listen to while I marvelled at the landscape. Being out on a ship – if not in the middle of the ocean, distant enough to not be in constant contact, had always appealed. Things didn’t work out like that, but I wasn’t annoyed by that, in fact quite the opposite.
I’m sure there are other reasons not immediately obvious, but I think those are the main ones. When I finally got the opportunity, and more importantly, when I was reminded of my desire when talking to a friend about boats, I decided to take the leap and book the cruise.
The cruise was picked on the basis of two very specific requirements:
  • I wanted a small ship – I had already decided that a big ship would mean just a floating hotel that could be anywhere, and I would lose the feeling of being out on the ocean.
  • I wanted one that stopped at multiple places – Being on a ship that just goes fvrom one point to another did not appeal. I wanted something that stopped and visited different places, same or different countries didn’t matter, I just wanted to see more country than sea.
This ultimately led me to book Hurtigruten, who use working ships on their route up and down the coast of Norway, and the MS Lofoten, which is the smallest of their ships.
I booked the cruise actually while on another trip. But I decided that I didn’t just want to do the cruise, I wanted to do as many excursions as possible so that I could experience many different things. So that meant picking things like the husky sledding, the aquarium, and trips to different locations and points. If I was going to arctic, I wanted to go to places that made it clear it was the arctic.
But it didn’t feel real until I’d stopped travelling for work and then gotten the tickets in the mail.
Once picked, now it was time to prepare for the journey. I have a lot of walking gear, but not a lot that would help me in potentially sub-zero temperatures, a lot of water, or a lot of snow.
Now I have been a big fan of Rohan for years, in fact, I’ve kept to three basic rules for my equipment for some time. I put Salomon’s on my feet, a Suunto on my wrist, and Rohan for everything else. So a trip to my local Rohan shop in York was in order.
I must say that Charlie, Max and Gary were ever so helpful and patient, although I’m pretty sure that they do not get many people  going with a list and the statement that they are going on a trek to Norway! Charlie in particular was so patient, and very kindly placed all of the clothing into our already-owned Rohan bags.
So for all of the effort, what do the piles contain:
  • Some new walking trousers that are more waterproof than my normal ones.
  • Some comfortable trousers for when I’m not on an excursion
  • Some waterproof over trousers
  • A nice super-warm padded jacket
  • Some thermals
  • Gloves (both thin and super insulating), hat
  • A few more bags and waterproof phone/iPad holder
All absolutely vital, and for this trip, by far the best selection of travel gear I’ve ever owned. We’ll see how practical it became on the cruise in due course.
What else did I prepare for?
  • I got a GoPro Hero 4, so I could record both the views (it’s got a fantastic wide angle lens) and the husky trip (which the assistance of a chest-mount)
  • Charge up both my other cameras – I knew in the cold they would need help, so I also packed and charged many secondary-batteries
  • Prepared a list of things I wanted to do on the cruise, like go through my reading list, sort out my photos, etc. It’s not that I thought I might be bored, I just like to make sure I’m prepared to do things I like while I’m away.
  • Packed my iPad to the gills with books, Spotify lists of music I haven’t listened to yet, and a few movies in case I was super-bored.
That was it, I was ready!
Packing proved to be problematic – I had just too much photo gear to fit into my usual carry on bag, so I ended up taking a suitcase in the cabin and checking a suitcase into the hold to carry it all.
Because of my early flight to Bergen on the Sunday morning (7am) I decided to stay at a local hotel on the Saturday night, which gave me the opportunity to settle in and relax a little before what would turn out to be a busy day.