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I Took a Norwegian Coastal Cruise in Winter (21 Ports in 4 Days)

I recently disembarked a cruise on a battery-powered ship that visited 21 different ports in 4 days.

The journey took us from Tromsø up in the Arctic Circle all the way down to Bergen – and I took this cruise in the middle of winter.

I saw and did things on the trip that have to be seen to be believed, from the ports that we visited to the surprisingly luxurious ship and the food we ate.

Havila Polaris

Usually, when you embark a cruise it’ll be lunchtime, maybe early afternoon. Our embarkation time was 11:45 pm.

I had a friend on board who had already been on the ship for a week and he had been sending me terrifying weather reports and footage of the ship travelling through rough seas and storms on her way to pick me up.

I was excited, but a little nervous about getting on board. I do get seasick, and I don’t claim to know much about Norwegian weather – but “High Avalanche Danger” warnings definitely didn’t seem good… 

Emma Cruises with Havila Polaris

The ship that we were boarding was called the Havila Polaris. We walked through a deserted terminal and straight up the gangway to board.

This felt like breaking every single cruise ship rule all at once. Normally you have to check in at the terminal, you have to go through security, and they scan your bags- it usually takes a while. We just walked up the walk way and we were in the ship.

We checked in at reception the same way as you would in a hotel on land and we were ready to start our cruise in under 5 minutes – which was very exciting.

To be honest I was very relieved that the ship really did turn up to pick us up at nearly midnight. I did double and triple-check the paperwork – I had to make sure I hadn’t misread it because it did seem different. 

Some guests had already been onboard for a week at this point and some would only be on the ship for a couple of hours between ports, how they keep track of everybody coming and going I’ll never know.

I did wonder how this would affect our cruise. I didn’t know if it would feel like a cruise at all.

I headed to my cabin which was right by reception to drop off my bags and then I very quickly ran around the ship to explore.

There wasn’t a lot going on because it was the middle of the night of course – but there were small signs around that this would be different from a regular cruise.

There were little things like shoe wipers on the floor so that you don’t slip in your snow boots. They would definitely come in handy. Before this, I’d never really seen much snow actually on a ship – but that was all about to change. 

I decided to leave the exploring of the rest of the areas until the morning, I wanted my first impression to be in daylight and I was just as curious about my cabin as the rest of the ship. 

Seaview cabin

I’m not too sure what I expected from my “Seaview” cabin on a ferry but it certainly wasn’t this.

I expected it to be cramped and dark – I always think of bunk beds when I think of ferries, but our cabin was big and bright and around the same size as an oceanview cabin on a regular cruise ship.

The bed looked comfy and on it were two duvets, which is the standard in Norway and a lot of Europe.

We usually only have one in the UK – but two does make a lot of sense. I’d be happy for two to be the standard, it makes it much easier to put the covers on too – having two singles instead of a large double! 

The big pile of seasick bags was a little nerve-wracking – but better to be safe than sorry of course.

I decided to head to bed before I could risk feeling any movement…

When I woke up the next morning I had no idea how many ports we had already passed. Often on big cruise ships, I’ll wake up when we dock because they kind of vibrate – especially if you’re at the back but the Havila Polaris is almost entirely silent because she’s partly battery-powered.

She’s one of the most environmentally friendly ships in the world, and Havila are very much at the forefront of shipping technology. It’s my hope that other cruise lines will follow Havila’s lead – but we will have to wait and see. 

The ship usually uses a combination of battery and LNG fuel because that’s most efficient – but the ship can sail for 4 hours on just the battery if she needs to – which is pretty incredible. 

Even when I was standing outside later in the cruise on the outside decks I wouldn’t be able to tell if we were docked or had sailed away because it was so quiet.

(The big hat I always wore might have had something to do with that too – and the snow hitting me in the face.)

I actually got snow or wind burn on my cheeks during the cruise, I think I got redder and redder as the cruise went on… 

We headed to the main dining room for breakfast and it was here that we had to pick our dining times. Because guests can be onboard for as little as an hour the cruises don’t always include food as standard.

I decided to buy what is called a “meal package” so all of my meals in the main dining room and the cafe were included. I had no idea what that meant in reality but I was looking forward to finding out.

I don’t really eat seafood – and Norway of course is famous for it, so I hoped that there would be other options available. 

We decided to pick one of the earliest time slots for dining, and that meant that our breakfast, lunch and dinner would always be at this set time. 

I’m not much of an “Early Bird” so I knew that I wouldn’t really have breakfast at 7.30 am every day – but it was worth it to get the early dinner slot at 6.30 pm

I’d pick dinner over breakfast any day. In reality, the crew were very helpful and the ship wasn’t full so I’m sure they would have let us eat at another time if we asked. 

Later in the cruise we even had a friend come onboard the ship to join us for breakfast – which is definitely not something you can do on a regular cruise.

He had to pay for his breakfast of course, but still, it was great. The ship felt more like a floating restaurant at that point. 

When we sat in the restaurant I noticed that the menu was in Norwegian, English and German.

I was curious about who would be on the cruise but at this point I was just happy to have some food. We ordered with one of the waiters and the food came very fast.

Breakfast onboard Havila Polaris
Breakfast on Havila Polaris

I’d heard good things about the food onboard and this breakfast did live up to that. Look at these fancy little trays, so fancy. 

After breakfast, I wandered along deck 6 to find a big lovely lounge with lots of seats. This lounge wraps right the way around the ship and there are comfortable chairs next to pretend fires. There are no real fires on the ship – unless something has gone very wrong. 

Speaking of things going very wrong, I did notice that on the back of the doors where it explained safety information it said that we would have to put on survival suits in an emergency. It hadn’t really crossed my mind before this just how cold the water below us was.

We did see massive chunks of ice in the water too so I definitely didn’t want to get too close to those. Most days on this cruise it was between -12 and -15c – which is around 5 Fahrenheit for the Americans reading. 

Emma Cruises Norway Havila Polaris

The ship felt very quiet but my friend David who I’ll refer to in this video as my “Norway Expert” said that the cruise was busier on the way north and quieter on the southern route.

I took his word for it but honestly, he could have told me anything and I’d have believed it. He told me a barn was being transported – it was true! 

I’ve asked David how to pronounce almost every Norwegian word, so if I say any wrong please feel free to go and tell David, his channel is called “Life in Norway” and I’ll link to it below:

I did notice that there were a lot of sick bags around the ship, they do pop up on regular cruise ships from time to time – but onboard this ship they were everywhere.

In every direction, there would be sick bags. On one hand – this was reassuring but on another – slightly terrifying.

I also didn’t like how the bags said on them ‘When filled put on the ground’. Imagine finding a bag of somebodies sick? that’s so gross – but better than somebody trying to carry it around a rocking ship I suppose…

The ship was spotlessly clean though and the guests seemed so polite and tidy, they’d always return their cups after drinking in the cafe which was good.

Polaris is one of only four Havila ships and she is the newest, she’s only been sailing for around 6 months so everything was pristine onboard. I really loved the Scandinavian style too, it’s very different from the other ships that do sail this route.

Find out more about Havila here:

8 Things You Need to Know about Havila (Norwegian Coastal Cruising)

The main competitor for Havila on this route is a cruise line called Hurtigruten. The route that they sail up and down from Bergen to Kirkenes is itself actually called “Hurtigruten”

But as Hurtigruten were originally the only line sailing it for routes they basically said, we’ll just take that name. That was until the “New kid on the block” Havila showed up to give them some competition…

So now both Havila and Hurtigruten sail the Hurtigruten. I like to think they are friends. 

Also on deck 6 was a shop that sold all kinds of weird and wonderful things, including tiny shoes that I thought I should get for my cat Hudson. I did ask Instagram if I should and they backed me up on that but I don’t think Hudson would appreciate it sadly…

They do sell lots of practical things here too like coats which are definitely needed. I’m not sure who would come on this trip without a coat but maybe if somebody’s luggage got lost or it got damaged or something it’s great that there are options here.

I’m used to rollerskating on cruise ships and swimming but I would find out later what the real entertainment was on a cruise like this. 

There was also a conference room where they would do daily talks. At this point I wasn’t sure what I would actually do on this cruise, there isn’t a theatre or gameshows or anything like that.

Havila Polaris conference room

It was around now that we started to pull into our first port. We headed out to the front of the ship and watched as we sailed up to this tiny town.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much snow and the way that everybody just drives around on it is something I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. We don’t get much snow in the UK. 

We were only in this first port for around half an hour so I wasn’t planning on getting off. I could have if I wanted to, and later in the cruise I often did run off, pretty much just put my hand in the snow and then come back onboard.

I wanted to watch this sail in from up high as did a lot of the guests. At the start of this trip, I did wonder how you can really explore a place when you’re visiting it for half an hour or sometimes only 15 minutes.

Havila does offer longer excursions. The excursion guests will get off in one port, and then the bus will meet the ship again later along the coast.

I’ve taken river cruises like that in the past but on the ocean that was a very novel concept. Normally on Ocean Cruises though you have one port per day, or perhaps two. 

We got to see the excursions in practice a little later when we were scheduled to sail under a bridge. Somehow they managed to time it so that when we sailed under the bridge the excursion bus was driving across.

An announcement came over the tannoy and said if we wanted to, we could go out and wave flags to the bus. I very quickly got changed into my outside clothes and headed up to the top deck.

It was freezing of course and it was tricky to see through the wind but this was so much fun.

I met some other guests too, some from the US and some from the UK. It prepared me a little for what it would be like going outside later. 

I was so grateful for my snow boots, my hat, my coat and my gloves during times like this. I’d pull out my phone to film but within a few seconds, my hands would start to sting.

I’d put together a guide of everything I packed on my website incase you are also going on a snowy cruise, the link is here:

Essentials I Packed For a Norwegian Coastal Cruise in Winter

During my tour of the ship I came across a cafe area that looked lovely. I personally really love the design and the colours, everything felt fresh and new and I decided that I’d like to have my lunch here.

As part of my meal package, I could have pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, stews – all kinds of things. I went first for the burger which was very good and came back again later in the cruise for a pizza.

We could also have the pastries too and the cinnamon rolls were huge and always freshly baked. 

We spent hours sitting here watching the scenery go by. My Norway Expert David used it as his office but it is a bit tricky to not get distracted by views like this! 

Havila Polaris view from a window

The menus do have prices and some people did pay as they went rather than buying the package.

Norway is an expensive place to visit, I’ll let you know how much this cruise cost me in a bit, but it’s worth remembering that even if you buy a McDonald it’ll be 50% or extra more than you’re used to at home – if you’re from the UK anyway.

I bought a pint of Cider in Norway once and it cost me £12, that’s 15 dollars. Another reason why it’s a good idea to cruise here. 

The Pizza on the menu was around £14 which is actually very good for Norway. If I hadn’t paid for meals I could have bought onboard my own food from the ports.

I did bring onboard my favourite drink Pepsi Max and stocked my fridge with it. It’s a ferry after all and being able to bring onboard anything is a perk. 

Emma Cruises Norway Pepsi Max

We went outside after lunch, after getting all our snowy clothes on of course. We had to scan our cruise card in the same way that you would on a big cruise ship and after that, we were free to explore. We just walked down the ramp and into the port.

We had port stops up to two hours on this cruise so we did get the chance to explore quite a few different places. Some were easier to get around than others because of the snow.

Fresh snow is relatively easy to walk on – but icy slush can be very slippery. When it was icy I would wear these spikes on my shoes. With the spikes I could walk as well as the locals did without spikes!

These are the spikes I bought for my trip. They were invaluable:

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The port that we visited was called Stokmarknes and I found the most impressive icicles here. After an hour or so of walking I was ready to get back on the ship.

This was good because these ships absolutely do not wait, they have a busy schedule and they will wait for no person.

The good thing I suppose is if you missed the ship you could get to a later port if you needed to, but that would be very expensive and stressful. I wouldn’t want to be racing a ship in a taxi, especially on those snowy roads! 

Right at the top of the ship I found a big lounge that I called the Observation Lounge.

That wasn’t it’s real name but it would be if it was on a cruise ship and I just couldn’t help calling it that. The lounge was massive, beautifully decorated and there were so many seats.

Even when we were sailing in and out of ports I could have had 20 seats here to myself if I wanted to.

Havila Polaris Observation Lounge

There was also glass in the ceiling which would be incredible if the northern lights did come out to play. They didn’t for me on my cruise – but earlier in the cruise David did get to see them. 

It’s in a lounge like this that you would find entertainment on a regular cruise but the entertainment we had was slightly different.

Instead of watching a comedian, we had hour after hour of scenery like this. I did see one other guest out here in shorts and I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me for a minute. It was around -12c which is 10f.

Havila Polaris stunning views

Sailing through the Raftsund was incredible, this is an area that big cruise ships could never get to and because the ship is electric it was silent, so silent. 

Next on my to do list was dinner, I knew that we had another port stop this evening that I wanted to explore and I needed to fuel for that.

We went to our assigned table and the menu was explained to us. The menu changes every 4 days -which is different to a regular cruise ship where it changes every day – but that was plenty.

The food was fantastic and the service was really fast. It looked to me like this area had been set up originally to be a buffet, I’m not sure if it was but to minimise food waste all the food is served to you.

I had a Ratatouille and a Panna Cotta all washed down with a Pepsi Max in a very fancy glass.

Drinks aren’t included in the meal plan but they do have a drinks package of sorts that you can buy. It’s more like buying drinks tokens for a discount rather than an unlimited package.

Food onboard Havila Polaris

Apparently, the people of Norway drink more Pepsi Max than any other country – I’d like to personally challenge them on that I think I would out-drink anybody for Pepsi Max given the chance. It is my favourite drink. 

We ate in our normal cold weather clothes and that was totally fine. There weren’t any dress codes although I did decide to put on a dress the next day. This day though I knew I wanted to go back outside again in the evening.

I really didn’t miss the traditional entertainment because my trip was organised so much around meals and the port stops. Wandering off into the dark in Norway was so much fun.

You very rarely get late-night stops on regular cruises but sometimes we would have a port stop at midnight, or 3 am – anytime.

The ship works around the clock, loading supplies and people and who knows what else. 

Snow on Deck Havila Polaris, Emma Cruises

When we woke up and decided to head outside I was amazed by the snow on the decks. We did have a little bit on the first day but had been quite lucky with the weather.

On this day though there were massive piles of snow everywhere and our cat mascot Captain Hudson had to help clear the decks.

Hudson shifting snow, Havila Polaris

They had little machines that would basically fire the snow overboard which was very cool.

They did tell us that they would be getting the snow off the ship and we had visions of the ship going through some sort of car wash with rollers on the side shaking the ship. It wasn’t anything like that though, I’m sure the wind blows a lot of it off. 

Hudson and snow shifting machine, Havila Polaris

You’d think all this snow would weigh the ship down, but this is very normal in Norway in the winter.

There was far more outside space than I expected, I would think that this would be used more in summer but even still I did see one person use one of the hot tubs.

There’s also a little sauna and further down in the ship there are two small gyms, one for cardio and the other for whatever other things people like to do in the gym. 

I was a little nervous about the weather as we were planning to sail out into the open sea more than we had before, but I had packed lots of seasickness remedies.

I had the tablets, the wristbands, the weird wristband that electric shocks me and best of all ginger biscuits that I bought from back home in the UK.

The weather was still calm at the this point but as soon as the ship rocked slightly I’d use it as an excuse to eat ginger biscuits. Ginger is great for seasickness and I love them. 

Emma cruises seasickness medication, ginger biscuits

The atmosphere around the ship as we headed to our next port was very relaxed. People were doing puzzles, catching up with work, chatting to friends and we had the chance to get to know the crew.

They were kind enough to let me have a look inside an inside cabin, and an accessible cabin which was interesting.

Find out all about the types of cabins onboard here:

Havila Cabin Guide – Inside, Seaview, Panoramic View, Suites and Accessible Cabins

The inside cabins are usually used by people who are only onboard for a couple of days but there are big suites onboard too with balconies. I can’t imagine waking up and seeing your balcony covered in snow – that must be cool.

I was very happy with my choice of Seaview cabin though. Our location was right in the middle and we saw some amazing things from the window. 

Find out more about my seaview cabin here:

Havila Seaview Cabin Review (Size, Storage and More) – Real Review

Heading out in Brønnøysund was very different to the ports before, the snow was coming down sideways and sticking to my eyelashes.

I decided that this would be the perfect time to make a snow angel and the snow was actually lovely and fluffy, it felt like icing sugar -very cold icing sugar of course! 

My friend and Norway expert David went to a local shop and the rest of us just tried to work out what was the road and what was the paths. 

There were Zebra Crossings under there somewhere but we really couldn’t see them. Luckily for us though the people of Norway were so so polite and friendly and would always let us cross the road. It must be weird for them. 

After getting wet in the snow I went back to my cabin to change into a dress for the evening.

The temperature in the ship was actually very warm, it’s quite weird to think that my house in the UK feels colder than the ship did but it’s true. I was perfectly warm in just this dress but of course, it did mean I couldn’t just pop outside or I’d freeze. 

Emma cruises, dress with stars

In the evening one of the ladies who worked onboard sang for us in the big lounge and this was the first time that I’d really seen a lot of people together at once.

It was getting a little rocky but I’d taken my seasickness medicine so I wasn’t too worried. I didn’t at any point on this cruise see anybody be sick or look unwell. I think we got very lucky with our weather given the time of year. 

Everybody who had been on for the northbound trip told me about the rocky seas, they had to cancel a lot of ports because of the storms and I’m so glad I picked the lucky part of the journey.

I was on the cruise for 4 days and the cruise cost me £791 which is $993 US dollars.

Considering that the cruise was in Norway which is very expensive and that that price was for a seaview cabin including food, I don’t think that’s too bad.

That price was based on two sharing a cabin so we both paid that price. 

I did of course have to add on a flight to Tromsø a night in a hotel there and a flight back from Bergen -which almost cost me as much as the cruise but it was absolutely worth it. 

It’s a shame we didn’t get to see the northern lights this time but I did see them last year on a more traditional Norway cruise.

To find out what that was like and how it was different – very different from this Norwegian ferry, check out this video:

Before You Go

Find out what to pack if you are taking a European River Cruise In winter here:

What I Packed For a European WINTER River Cruise (Essentials, Clothes and More)

This was a very unusual ferry. Find out about the differences between cruise ships and a traditional ferry below:

5 HUGE Differences Between a Ferry and a Cruise Ship (Real Examples)

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