Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
There’s nothing like the realization that you’ve just paid $12.87 for a pint of beer to remind you that you’re in Norway. In fact, local legend has it that if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of a troll giggling madly as he makes off with every last bit of loose change you might have had before disappearing into a misty fjord never to be seen or heard from again.
Despite the high costs, I’m enjoying my one-night pit-stop in the Norwegian capital city of Oslo. Yesterday, I flew from Canada via Frankfurt, arriving here just before noon aboard a Lufthansa Airbus A321. Tomorrow, I’ll head back to Oslo-Gardermoen Airport for another flight, this time on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS).
My real destination, as it turns out, is Tromso, Norway – and Silversea Expeditions’ adventurous and luxurious Silver Explorer.
Tomorrow, I’ll board this spectacular 132-guest ship for the first time in three years. Back in 2012, I sailed aboard Silver Explorer on a fascinating voyage from Portsmouth, England around the British Isles. It introduced me to the world of expedition cruising, and gave me some lifelong friends – not to mention a whole host of irreplaceable experiences that could never be planned on any itinerary, but which my life is fuller and more complete for having had.
That’s the beauty of the voyage we’re about to embark on: a 10-day journey from Tromoso to Longyearbyen, in arctic Svalbard.
Part of Silversea’s full lineup of Arctic Expedition Cruises, this sailing might initially confuse those who are used to more structured and precise port-of-call-driven itineraries. After our initial day at sea, we’ll call on Bear Island – an uninhabited island and designated nature reserve literally located smack in the middle of nowhere.
Then, it’s a full week that can be described in a single sentence: cruising and exploring Arctic Svalbard.
Itineraries like this are determined by the weather conditions, along with the wishes of the vessel’s Master and the onboard Expedition Team Leader. Because of this, no two voyages will be exactly alike. It’s great for guests, too – nothing heightens the sense of adventure like not having a rigidly structured itinerary that must be adhered to at all times. It also helps reign in guest expectations: with no idea what to expect, guests rarely leave disappointed.
This voyage is a huge deal for me. This past January, I had the opportunity to visit Antarctica, with its towering icebergs, lonely vistas, and playful penguins. It was a dream come true for me, and the absolute journey of a lifetime. Now, much like Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen, I’m set to conquer the Arctic as well.
You’re going to hear a lot from me over the next 10 days about Amundsen and other Arctic explorers who helped open up areas that, just a few hundred years ago, were literally black blips on the map. A human dynamo of a man, Amundsen’s prodigious lust for adventure drove him to not only conquer Antarctica (take that, Robert Falcon Scott!), but to also claim victory in the Northwest Passage and the North Pole.
But like most runaway passions, Amundsen’s would consume him, too. He disappeared mysteriously in 1928, on a routine rescue mission over the Barents Sea.
Amundsen’s expedition ship Fram is on permanent display here in Oslo, but while we sadly didn’t have time to make it to the museum, we did get the chance to explore this great Norwegian city.
Silversea utilises the Radisson Blu Scandinavia as their pre-and-post-cruise hotel in Oslo. Rather than transferring immediately to Tromso, guests use Oslo as an intermediary stopover – presumably due to the greater variety of flights and hotels found here.
It’s a great hotel, but you should know that guest rooms are currently under renovation. I lucked out: I got one of the newly-renovated rooms on the 10th floor. Your mileage may vary. The hotel is, however, pleasantly up-front with the construction work occurring on the floors above, all of which only lasts until 7:00 p.m. each day.
My room is perfect for a one-night stay, and would probably suffice for half-a-week or so if push came to shove. The air conditioning is on the soft side, even when cranked to the full position. I avoided turning my room into a broiler by keeping the blackout drapes shut during the heat of the afternoon. Believe it nor, Oslo nearly hit 30°C – or 86°F – today!
I also have to give bonus points to the Radisson for being literally the only hotel that has actually had pre-cruise transfer information available for me on arrival! Normally, I have to ask or inquire to a baffled and overworked check-in staff; not here.
By getting that package early on, I learned that I’ve got to be up, fed and ready to rock at 6:45 tomorrow morning. Given that, this seems like a logical spot to suspend tonight’s post…with the anticipation of more to come tomorrow from Tromso and onboard the magnificent Silver Explorer!