Jon Ingleton enjoying an insight into Norwegian life during a trip to a private home in Ervik
Our evening arrival in Hammerfest from Svalbard saw us going straight out for dinner at the Sami Camp, high in the hills overlooking the town. Melanie Lewis Carsjens, product manager for Holland America Group, described the occasion perfectly: “Sami Mikkel and Solveig at Mikkelgammen were wonderful hosts and sitting around the fire inside the hut, on a cover of birch branches and reindeer skins was the perfect setting to listen to their stories and learn of their challenges.”
Having previously spent some time in Hammerfest, I was pleased that the plans for the following day were to take us on the Norwegian Scenic Route to Havøysund. The morning started at the Polar Bear Society. While there aren’t any in residence in Hammerfest, this is a compelling attraction and I now proudly wear my membership pin.
There are some remarkable journeys in Norway and the Norwegian Scenic Route is surely up there with the best of them. The route officially starts in the sea-Sami village of Kokelv and from there, travellers can enjoy a winding 67 kilometres of continuous visual treats. Lillefjord was perhaps the standout stop for amazing views and also gave us an opportunity to paddle in the Fosseelva river. After a hearty lunch at the Havøysund Hotel, we wandered down to the pier for a joyful speedboat ride back to Hammerfest for a quick port inspection before heading off to Harstad.
Although Harstad is only a small port town, tourism organisation Visit Harstad has worked hard to develop some very special treats for visiting cruise passengers that are sure to earn good ratings. In fact, these offerings are what led Serena Guglielmone, Costa Cruises’ destination management coordinator, to say that Harstad boasts a “wide and varied shore excursion offer.”
Luxury cruise lines will be particularly impressed with the dining options available at the beach in Elgsnes. “The visit to Elgsnes Beach accompanied by the outstanding dinner we enjoyed was something very special and the ideal location to create a unforgettable Seabourn moment,” said Lewis Carsjens.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ shore excursions manager Claire Levitt agreed, saying: “The surrounding area is stunning and provides one with a true sense of tranquility – wonderful!”
Four other noteworthy visits combined to give us a rich and rewarding day in Harstad. The Adolf Gun is a modified battleship armament and offers an intriguing insight into land fortification during World War II. Just north of Harstad is Trongenes, worthy of the short journey to visit the storied medieval church and glimpse into Viking life at the Trondenes Historical Center. We also enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Røkenes Gard before catching the ferry for the final leg of our FAM trip with Cruise Norway.
Some of Hammerfest’s highlights for cruise visitors include:
• Smarthotel – a great location and a fabulous breakfast
• Sami Camp Mikkelgammen – great views over the town in splendid Sami company
• Polar Bear Society – only visitors to Hammerfest can join
• Kokelv – a sea-Sami village in a picturesque setting
• Norwegian Scenic Route – one of the 18 best rated in Norway
• Lillefjord – much more than just a restroom
• Selvika – another rest stop, with a twist
• Gavlen viewpoint – a dramatic vista
• Havoysund Hotel – comfortable and reasonably priced
• Port of Hammerfest – City centre location for cruise ships on Pier 1
Meanwhile, Harstad highlights include:
• Elgsnes beach dinner – luxury food in an amazing location
• Clarion Collection Hotel Arcticus – welcome respite for a weary traveller
• Port of Harstad – see for yourself on their webcam
• Adolf Gun – impressive engineering for a grim purpose
• Trongenes Church – a medieval masterpiece in a beautiful setting
• Trondenes Historical Center – a high quality exhibition showcasing Viking history
• Ervik private house – offers a brilliant peak into Norwegian living
• Røkenes Gard – lovely lunch in very pleasant surroundings
Read Jon Ingleton’s review of the calls in Svalbard in part one of his event report and a roundup of his visits to Sortland, Vesterålen and Lofoten in part three.
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