We awoke this morning to a cloudless, vivid blue Arctic sky; the temperature being a chilly -8ºC. We went to the Lido restaurant on Deck 8 and got a table by the window so we could watch the progress of the Borealis into port; we were due to dock in Tromsø around 10.00am. This is fourth visit on a cruise to Tromsø, but it is one of my favourite Norwegian cities as it is so scenic and there is so much to see and do. At a latitude of 69º 58’ north, it is one of the world’s most northerly cities and is a great place to see the Northern Lights, should Mother Nature decide to bestow them upon us.
After breakfast we wrapped up well and went up to the little viewing area at the bow on Deck 6. Despite the temperature being well below zero, it didn’t feel as cold as it was yesterday; there was not a breath of wind and it was a beautiful, crisp winter’s day. We watched the Borealis manoeuvring slowly into port; we could see the distinctive Tromsø Bridge connecting the island on which the city stands to the Norwegian mainland. On the left we also spotted the unmistakeable Arctic Cathedral. We couldn’t wait to go ashore again! 😊
On previous cruises our ships have always docked more or less opposite the Arctic Cathedral and you can walk off the ship straight into the city, but maybe because the Borealis, at 62,000 tons, is a much bigger ship we had to dock some way out, which necessitated the use of a shuttle bus to go into town; it was prohibited for passengers to walk around in the dock area. In any case, it was quite industrial and it looked very icy underfoot, so we’d be glad of the shuttle bus.
We had to go to the Destinations desk to book a couple of tickets for the bus; these were called out by number for passengers to proceed to the gangway to disembark. It looked as if it would be lunchtime before our number was called, so we returned to our cabin and just spent the morning pottering around, as you do, and doing a few laps around deck in the crisp, clear winter air.
We enjoyed our lunch in the Lido restaurant as usual, then got dressed for the weather in our walking boots, lined walking trousers, sweatshirts, thick coats, hats, scarves and gloves. Then, when our bus number was called, we disembarked the Borealis and made our way gingerly across the ice to the waiting buses. The gritters had been out and the area was cleared of the deep snow we could see all around and was well salted and gritted. Unlike our day in Ålesund, we had our Spikies in the rucksack if needed. 😊
The bus took about 10 minutes to get to the drop-off point in the city centre. Tromsø is such a charming place; the buildings are all different and they have imaginative use of lighting, which reflected off the snow with a lovely bluish hue. I was amused to see many small boats and pleasure craft moored up; some of them incongruously piled high with a couple of feet of snow! 😊
Walking was not too difficult; the snow underfoot was pretty soft and crunched underneath our boots with a satisfying creaking sound. I soon got warm walking, and took off my hat and gloves. We walked along the shoreline and got some lovely photos of the distinctive Arctic Cathedral, then spent some time looking in the shop windows and just walking along, excited to be here again (our last visit was in 2014).
Looking at the bridge, we decided to get some exercise and walk over it to the cathedral. Google maps told us it was about 1.7 miles each way, so it would also be a good workout. We set off, pausing at intervals to look at the scenery and the other boats. We saw that a Hurtigruten ship was docked in the spot that we usually dock in; that would explain why the Borealis had had to berth so far along.
It was great exercise walking over the bridge. Not only were we walking in snow (where you find you use different leg muscles from those you use walking normally) but the first half of the bridge was slightly uphill. But there was no hurry, and we stopped several times to watch boats coming and going, and to take photos of the stunning Arctic scenery. The Norwegians take snow completely in their stride, unlike the British where, if we get half an inch of snow, the roads are thrown into turmoil. 😊
As we approached the Arctic Cathedral we stopped to take several photos of this distinctive building against a fantastic backdrop of snowy mountains and the blue sky with its wispy cirrus clouds. Once we arrived, we crossed the road and turned around so we could get some great photos of the bridge. Then we approached the cathedral, hoping to go inside where we know, from previous visits, that there is a massive, incredible stained-glass window and the ‘stepped’ design of the external architecture allows the wintry daylight to filter into the interior, giving a uniquely attractive effect. However, the cathedral was closed because there was a concert in progress (in fact, it was one of the organised excursions from the ship!) 😊
Nevertheless, we took lots of photos then decided to walk back over the bridge, this time on the opposite side. We were able to get some pictures of the Borealis in the distance, as we clocked up our steps in the frigid air and worked up a thirst for some Norwegian beer – we were heading for the first pub we came to once we reached the other side. 😊
Back in town we wandered around through the lovely streets, the snow crunching underfoot and, just as we walked past a place which advertised an on-the-premises microbrewery, a guy walked outside and placed a board on the pavement saying “Open at 3.00pm for craft ales”. We looked at our watches – 3.00pm exactly. Fate had put us in the right spot at the right time!
In we went, and found ourselves in the cosy interior consisting of wooden tables and benches and a bar with a range of hand-pumps; all the beer was unique to this place and looked very strong! We each ordered a glass of stuff that was 6.7% ABV, and we sat at a table near the window where we could people-watch, as well as passing pleasantries with some other customers and the barman, who spoke excellent English with no trace of an accent.
We enjoyed our beers so much we had another one; this time it was a dark ale at 8.2% ABV strength. Then, as the time was getting on, we decided to go back to get the shuttle bus to return to the Borealis in time to get washed and changed and rest before dinner. We’d really enjoyed our time in Tromsø and we had all day to look forward to tomorrow as well, as the ship was remaining in port overnight.
At dinner, Trevor and I found ourselves alone on table #126 once again, as Mark, Jan, Andy and Kal were all booked on a trip out to the countryside to look for the aurora borealis. The main meal was lobster thermidor, and earlier on Mark had said he hoped lobster would feature on the menu at some time. Wait until he hears he missed it! 🙂
So we were finished in good time, and we put on our coats and ventured out on deck briefly, where although it was cold, the lack of wind meant the freezing air was more invigorating than uncomfortable.
We then came back inside, divested ourselves of our outdoor wear, then went along to the Neptune Theatre in time for the performance, called “An Evening Concerto”. As many people were ashore on organised excursions, there were lots of empty spaces in the theatre, but the performance, which consisted of the Borealis String Trio as well as the concert pianist, was superb. They played several well-known classical pieces and were excellent. I love classical music as you can completely lose yourself in the music, or just listen and relax; classical music can evoke so many different emotions.
Then we finished off the evening with the usual; up to the Observatory for the quiz (which we didn’t win); then a (brief!) look out on deck, where we gazed at the skies hoping for a glimpse of the Northern Lights. We had, however, been advised that an announcement would be made from the officer of the watch on the bridge if there were any sightings of the aurora, so on this occasion there was nothing to see.
Back inside the Observatory we stayed to have a couple more drinks and listen to one of the show company’s vocalists, Jack Scott-Walker, perform some songs for us, followed by the lively music of Funky Blue.
We then returned to the warmth of cabin 3326 where we quickly settled down to sleep in our cabin, which was nice and quiet as we were in port. We were looking forward to the exciting day we had planned for tomorrow.