Viking Cruises - Into The Midnight Sun
After watching way too many shows of The Vikings and resultantly being obsessed with the Norwegian coastline, when the opportunity to join Viking’s Midnight Sun cruise came along - of course we grabbed it by the Viking horns! Here is the story of our experience sailing around Scandinavia through the Arctic Circle and ending up in London after 14 days.
True homebodies (yes, that might be quite the paradox since travel is our business) - the room is where we spent most of our time. We both are also quite obsessed with sleep and found the king size bed to be perfect for just that! When we weren’t sleeping - the balcony was perfect for lazing the day away while the ocean drifted by. Oh and did I forget to mention that there was 24 hour room service? Hello, 3 am steak and fries? Yep - we did that like every night…
Inside The Ship
When we decided to leave the safety of our introvert approved rooms - Viking totally had our back with it’s five bars serving the best drinks in the Norwegian Sea! In case you’re interested - here were our favorite drinks according to the time of day:
1 pm - Irish coffee
Too early to start drinking? We covered our guilt by mixing caffeine with alcohol.
5 pm - Aperol Spritz
Not only did we like the name ‘Aperol’, the vibrant orange-red color of the cocktail was fun to hold in our hands.
7 pm - Any red or white wine from the Duoro region of Portugal.
Someone told us that wine from Duoro was one of the great secrets of the wine world. Well - the cat’s out of the bag now!
9 pm - Macallan, with two ice cubes
10 pm - Macallan - Wow that was good, I’ll have another!
Midnight - They had this warm Brandy drink named after the father of the owner - it was the perfect ending to each night! Like a cuddly good night!
Some of the other areas we enjoyed:
Piano Area / Main Staircase - If you like classic music ranging from piano, string instruments, and broadway vocals - this was the place to be at night. There's also a bar here!
Reading Area - In a way this reminded me of my college library, but smaller.
Rear Pool - the only outdoor pool on the ship - if you timed it perfectly on the right days, you could eat fresh mussels and drink white wine while the sun was setting!
On warm, sunny days - the retractable roof opens up in the main pool so you can get your Nordic tan on!
The top rear deck of the ship was one of my favorite places to gaze out into the open ocean as we sailed through the water.
FOOD ON THE SHIP
For all the foodies out there - Viking has you covered with a vast array of options. We’ve listed them here based on levels of effort:
Room Service baby. Order to your hearts content from the comfort of your shower robe and slippers while binge-watching Game of Thrones on the in-room flat screen.
Head over to the World Cafe for all you can eat salmon sashimi and king crab legs!! I thought I’d be sick of salmon by day 13 but nope.
Or for Norwegian waffles - the Mamsen's in the Explorer’s Lounge is the place to go for that in the morning!
They have three sit down restaurants where you have to dress up (no jeans, no shorts, and no t-shirts). Two of them semi-require reservations (Manfredi’s and the Chef’s Table) while the other one you can just walk in when you like. After 6 pm the aforementioned dress code applies - trust me - I tried to walk in with jeans and no go.
Our favorite of the ‘More Effort’ restaurants was definitely Manfredi’s.. mostly because they had a ribeye steak rubbed with garlic oil, mushroom powder, and brown sugar and then grilled to perfection. The beef tartare and Tiramisu was totally spot on as well. Totally worth getting out of our shower robes and dressing up for!
As seen on countless postcards - Bergen is home to the UNESCO Heritage wharf called Bryggen. In the 1400’s it was home to the Hanseatic League, which sounds like some superhero group right? Sorry to disappoint, but actually it was a group of German merchants trading dried fish, grains, and other resources. In the 1700’s, there was a massive fire that tore through all of the buildings. They rebuilt the whole area and what you see there today has stood there for over 300 years. Also - Bergen apparently has rain for 2/3 of the year - so we got super lucky and had a bright, sunny day during our time there!
Just outside of Bergen lies the magnificent summer home of Ole Bull, one of Norway's most famous violinists of all time. He traveled all over the world playing concerts while gaining fame and wealth. He absolutely loved the arts and the beautiful architecture from his many travels. All of this culminated in the summer home he built in Lysøen - which has a Russian style onion dome and mixtures of Moorish and European architecture.
And one last look at Bergen below!
Continuing our tour of UNESCO sites (Norway seems to be full of them!!), Geiranger is a super deep fjord (approx 260 meters/850 feet deep) surrounded by towering, tree lined mountains on all sides. While the ship was pulling in to the harbor, we were graced by the presence of multiple waterfalls. The two most famous waterfalls are called the Seven Sisters and the Suitor. They face each other across from water, with the Suitor said to be ‘wooing’ the Seven Sisters. On a clear day, you can take a bus to the top and see the grand majesty of the whole area. Alternatively, renting a kayak to row around the pristine waters of the fjord isn’t too shabby of a choice either!
There was a large fog cloud sitting on top of Geiranger the day we sailed in, but we had a moment of clear air at the top of our viewpoint where you can see the town and the Viking ship!
Lofoten was like one of those places where everywhere you turned, it was postcard pretty. From all the jagged, countless mountain peaks jutting out from all sorts of angles to the cute red houses dotting the landscape - it was a photographer’s dream to explore here. Also - being this far up north - the light was just somehow better for photography. I really wish we could have stayed longer, but it was great to finally see Lofoten. I’m already plotting my return - perhaps in fall or spring! I’d love to see the whole area under some snow!
The Midnight Sun
One of the more magical things I’ve experienced - it was even more stunning to witness it at sea 12 stories high while in a hot tub! Just to explain what a midnight sun is - during the summer in the high latitudes (north of the Arctic Circle), the sun doesn’t actually set. It sits right above the horizon at midnight and then over the course of the next couple hours it simply just moves laterally to the start of it’s sunrise! Your mind is also tricked into thinking that it’s eternal daytime - we ended up going to bed at 3 am every night. Good thing the ship had plenty of awesome bars to hang out in!
SHETLAND PONIES!! Say no more. I’m chaining myself to the fence where the ponies are! Have I told you what sweethearts the Shetland Ponies are? Similar to the Iceland Horses, with their friendly disposition and lovely manes, when we stopped the car on the side of the road - they all came galloping over to get closer to us. Since they loved getting their heads scratched, they would just place their heads into my hands! If you want them to love you even more - bring some apples and carrots for them to munch on. I couldn't get enough of the sight and sound of them crunching away on them. Just please don't feed them bread because they can't digest it.
Here is where we saw the Shetland ponies: https://goo.gl/maps/gt6ohzLPGgT2 - They are sprinkled randomly - just look for them and then have fun!
BONUS: There are large PUFFIN colonies down south at the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse https://goo.gl/maps/Xt1DszvGod92. After parking, just hike up and look to the left where the cliff falls off. You’ll see lots of bird colonies as well as random Puffin colonies scattered about! And yes, they are even MORE ADORABLE in person!! I love their quirky way of waddling around and their funky beaks!
Home of J.K. Rowling and inspiration to large parts of her Harry Potter series - I had no idea Edinburgh was so drop dead gorgeous. Add in the charming Scottish accent, super smooth kilts, and interesting history of the area and you’ve got what I think is an underrated gem! You can just wander the tiny alleyways and meandering cobblestone streets while being charmed by all the Harry Potter-esque surroundings. Also, Edinburgh is home to the only knighted penguin in the world!
Ahh London, with it’s stunning cultural diversity (over 300 languages spoken in the city) and strong museum game (over 170 of them!) - I never pass up a chance to explore all the charming neighborhoods and delicious food scene. During our stop here, I was lucky enough to explore a bit of the Notting Hill neighborhood with talented photographers Mary Quincy, Tamara Peterson, and Zoë Timmers.
We were invited as guests by Viking Cruises. As always, all opinions are our own.