“In Search of the Northern Lights” with Viking Cruises Day 5 & Day 6

Tuesday, January 25th, 2022 and Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

We are combining two days because Wednesday is a day at sea. It just made sense to combine them!

We were up early just so we could do today’s saliva COVID test because we had a tour this morning, “A Snapshot of Bergen”. This was an included excursion.

Our first stop was The Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene. It was one of the best preserved buildings in Bergen. It was the 16th century office and home of an affluent German merchant. It was located next to St. Mary’s Church. The museum consists of 3 assembly rooms and a kitchen. The first rooms we visited were assembly halls for the Hanseatic merchants. The Hanseatic League lived here from 1350 to 1750. These merchants traded stockfish and grains.

The Schøtstuene was where all the cooking of food took place. Due to the danger of fire it was placed separately behind the other office buildings. In winter hot meals were served here.

After the museum we walked through Bryggen. It was nice walking around this area again because it wasn’t raining!

The walk along the harbor was enjoyable today.

We stopped at the Fantoft Stavkicke (Fantoft Stave Church). It was originally built in 1150 in Fortun and was moved to Fantoft in 1883. It burned down in 1992. It was rebuilt to resemble the original structure.

The Fløibanen which takes you to the top of Mt. Floyen was closed for remodeling, so we didn’t get to ride it to the top which would have been great because this morning was the best weather and the sky was clear!

The clearing in the mountain where the Fløibanen is located.

After our morning tour we were back on the ship and immediately ate lunch because the ship was going to set sail at 1:30 PM and we wanted to be out on the deck as we left Bergen. As we were heading out on deck the captain made an announcement that our departure would be delayed about 45 minutes. So we went back to our cabin and out on our veranda we saw passengers disembarking with their luggage! We had heard approximately 18 people had a positive COVID result and had to quarantine in Bergen. What a shame to travel here and be excited for your cruise and not be able to go. (Travel insurance is certainly a necessity during this pandemic so you are protected.)

Bergenhus Fortress from the ship.

Of course it was raining by the time we set sail. We still went out on deck and walked forward and aft.

After the ship had sailed and we were pretty wet, we found a spot in the Explorer’s Lounge to continue to watch as sailed out of the bay. The Explorer’s Lounge is at the front of the ship and had all glass windows! Once we got closer to the open North Sea, the wind picked up considerably.

This evening was the captain’s toast and an introduction to his senior officers. Our captain was Norwegian and had a great sense of humor. He shared that there were 417 guests on board and 451 crew representing 47 different countries. The crew members outnumbered the guests!

Captain Rune and the senior officers

Wednesday was a day at sea so we did not have to be up early. We did need to do our COVID test before 9:00 AM so the room steward can collect them and get them to the medical lab on board.

We attended three lectures that were offered today. The first lecture was with Dr. Kathy Stearne. She discussed the Northern Lights and if science can explain the “geomagnetic storms or if the gods are just over the horizon”.

At 2:00 PM we participated in the celebration for crossing the Arctic Circle, the “Blue Nose Ceremony”! In Antarctica we did the polar plunge where you actually jumped into the water off the ship but for this Viking Cruise they turned their hot tub into a freezing cold “sea” of water. We watched them dump load after load of ice into the water. Guests were invited to jump into the icy water and then they were given a “blue nose’ and a shot of aquavit which is the national spirit of Scandinavia. After our “polar plunge” we went back to our cabin and took a hot shower.

The next lecture was with Mr. Terence Murtagh. He spoke about the science related to the aurora borealis and also how to capture them with a camera. He gave suggestions for settings of a digital camera set on manual.

After his talk we participated in the daily afternoon tea. We each had a our own selection of tea in our own teapot and a selection of tea sandwiches and desserts!

After tea we enjoyed the views from our veranda as we sailed toward Narvik, Norway. One of the bridges the ship sailed under was very close. There was approximately three feet between the top of the ship and the bridge.

The last lecture we attended today was with Michael Scott and his topic was about discovering wildlife and the natural landscapes we might see during our cruise. He mainly showed pictures he had taken from his previous travels along Norway’s coast.

This evening we enjoyed a musical show with the four Viking singers recalling sounds of the 1960s. They sang many different songs that were popular during this decade.

The Viking Band playing with a COVID information sign behind them.

After the show we bundled up and went out on the top deck to check out the night sky for any activity. It was cloudy and no stars.

Black sky filled with clouds!

Tomorrow morning we will arrive at Narvik.

“In Search of the Northern Lights” with Viking Cruises Day 4

Monday, January 24th, 2022

This morning we were up early to fill our test vials with saliva for our COVID test to make sure we are negative otherwise we would not be boarding our ship, the Viking Venus! Little did we know that we would be doing the saliva COVID test every morning for the rest of our trip! Viking also had us wear a contact tracer our entire trip.

Guess what, it’s raining this morning and the forecast said it will continue throughout the day. We are to check out of our hotel today at 12:45 PM and head to the ship. There was a delay at the hotel so we sat in the lobby with the other Viking guests for close to an hour! Finally we boarded a bus for the port which is within walking distance! The passengers on the bus were limited to 25 so we were happy that they didn’t load it to full capacity!

The rain has stopped as we head to the ship and there is some blue sky!

The process for boarding the ship included Border control where our passports were checked and stamped and then we moved on to the Viking counter for a temperature check and a health survey. Besides a saliva COVID test required daily, we also had to complete a health survey and do a temperature check! It was to become a morning routine: COVID test, health survey, and temperature check! This did not bother us because it really made us feel secure knowing Viking was doing their best to keep all of us safe and healthy!

Once on the ship we went to our cabin and met Paul who showed us all of the features of our cabin. We immediately went to the Explorers Cafe for lunch because the lunch in our room had nothing Gluten Free. There was a tray of wrapped sandwiches and desserts in the cabin. This was because you had to stay in your room until given the all clear from your COVID tests.

After lunch we went back to our cabin to unpack because our luggage had arrived. When we were given the OK we left to explore the Viking Venus, our “home” for the next 12 days!

Our cabin view from our veranda.

The Viking Venus was built in 2021 and is classified as a small ship with a maximum of 930 guests. This cruise was less than half full.

We found a bar at the front of the ship, the Explorer’s Lounge, and enjoyed a glass of wine.

After dinner we went to the theater onboard to watch the movie Respect that starred Jennifer Hudson and was about the life of Aretha Franklin. We learned a lot about her life that we didn’t know. Popcorn was available. There were only about 7 of us in the theater! As we walked back to our cabin we noticed the ship was like a ghost town! We put on our coats and went out on deck to look back at the town of Bergen.

Then it was time to get some rest because we have an official tour of Bergen first thing in the morning and we have to allow time to take our COVID tests, do our quick health survey, and get our temperature check done before breakfast!

“In Search of the Northern Lights” with Viking Cruises Day 3

Sunday, January 23rd, 2022

This morning we were up early to go to a hotel conference room to take our COVID test so that we fulfilled Norway’s entrance requirement. Our tests were negative so we went out exploring more of Bergen and it was another rainy day! The sun rose at 9:14 AM and set at 4:29 PM.

Our first stop on our walk was the Bryggens Museum. The museum displays findings of Bryggen (Bryggen is a series of Hanseatic heritage commercial buildings. Hanseatic League was an organization founded by German merchants to protect their mutual trading interests.) from a 1955 archaeological excavation. The museum has foundations of the oldest buildings in Bergen. The exhibit “Under Ground” uses 1000s of artifacts and modern historical and archaeological items to learn about the medieval people of Bergen and Western Norway. A new exhibit displays a Guddal (a village in Norway) garment that is nearly 1000 years old!

After the museum we walked over to the Rosenkrantz Tower. It is an important renaissance monument in Norway. The tower was the residence of King Eirik Magnusson. He was the last king to hold court in Bergen until he died in 1299. It is located in the Bergenhus Fortress. We walked all around the grounds. We walked by the Haakon’s Hall. It is a medieval stone hall. During medieval times it was the largest building of the royal palace.

After walking around the fort area, we went along the wharf.

For lunch we stopped at Holy Cow. They offer a gluten free Brioche bun for their burgers and that sounded good to try. When you go into any restaurant in Bergen you are asked to put your name and cell number for contact tracing. Masks were also required unless you were actively eating or drinking.

After lunch we went back to the hotel to dry off before venturing out again. This time we went the other direction in Bergen. It was uphill to St. John’s Church. It was of the Gothic style located in the Sydnes area of Bergen. St. John’s is one of the five churches for the Bergen Cathedral Parish. This church was built between 1891 and 1894. It is the largest church in Bergen and seats 1250. We walked around the neighborhood and then over by the National Theater.

It was dark by the time we got to The National Theater. It houses three stages/venues. It was founded to develop Norwegian playwrights. It wasn’t open or we would have checked out the inside. It was a beautiful building and first opened in 1850.

The Bergens Tidende building is on Torgallmenningen square, the main square of Bergen as we are heading back to our hotel. Bergens Tidende is Norway’s fifth-largest newspaper.

The Bergens Tidende Building

Since our luggage had to be set outside our hotel room by 9:00 PM we needed to be back in our room in time because Viking would be transporting it to the ship tomorrow!

“In Search of the Northern Lights” with Viking Cruises Day 1 & Day 2

Friday, January 21st and Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

Traveling during a pandemic is doable as long as you are prepared and aware of the restrictions and the COVID numbers for the area(s) you are traveling to visit! We were receiving emails from Viking about what preparations we needed to have for travel on an airplane and also to enter the country! They also let us know what Viking’s requirements would be to board the ship.

We filled out paperwork for entry into Norway, paperwork for Viking, and “Travel Ready” for the airlines. We were required to have a negative PCR covid test within 48 hours of flying! Norway which is where we were heading requires a negative covid test within 24 hours of arriving in the country. We had a folder with all of our documents ready for inspection as we headed to the airport on Friday.

Excited for this adventure!

We went through the check-in process and security without any problems. We had to show our passports, our negative COVID PCR test, and our entrance to Norway document! It’s a lot of paperwork for traveling and always wearing our face masks! Our first flight was from Columbus to Chicago, Illinois. We had about an hour and a half until we boarded our Chicago flight.

Our second flight was from Chicago, Illinois to Copenhagen, Denmark. When we landed in Chicago we had a little over a couple of hours before our flight. We had to leave our arrival terminal, go outside to catch the tram and then go through security again to get to our gate for Scandinavian Airlines (SAS).

Our flight from Chicago to Copenhagen was very comfortable. We put in a bid for business class and it was accepted! It was our first time to fly in business class and it will probably be our only time but we thoroughly enjoyed the comfort and extra attention! The plane was not full at all so we feel certain that’s why our low bid was accepted!

On Saturday, we arrived in Copenhagen a little after 7:00 AM and had to go quickly from terminal C to terminal A which was almost a mile walk and we had less than an hour before our flight was to takeoff. When we arrived at our gate to fly us from Copenhagen to Bergen, Norway we had extra time because our flight was delayed about 15 minutes.

Our plane from Copenhagen to Bergen was a smaller jet so we had to walk outside and climb the steps to board the plane. The sun was rising and it was beautiful! The flight was about an hour and 25 minutes long.

Sunrise in Copenhagen!

When we landed in Bergen, Norway we expected to get off the plane, collect our baggage and go through customs and border control. When we left the gate, we was two Viking reps who checked the 8 of us in and led us down for COVID testing which Norway requires within 24 hours of entering even though we had a test before flying out of Columbus! The line was so long for COVID testing that Viking arranged for us to take our tests between 8 and 10 AM Sunday at our hotel which meets Norway’s requirement. We just left the airport without showing anyone our documents or passports! We boarded our bus and went straight to our hotel, Hotel Norge, and checked in.

Welcome to rainy Bergen!

We went up to our room and put our luggage in our room and left to go explore the city. The weather was foggy and rainy and the temperature was in the 30s.

Hotel Norge by Scandic

Our first stop was the wharf and saw the wooden houses in the Bryggen area. The row of houses along the wharf are one of Bergen’s most popular attractions. Bryggen is Bergen’s oldest district over 1,000 years old. A great fire in 1702 destroyed Bryggen. When it was rebuilt the town followed the architecture that was there before the fire. It still looks the same as it did in the 12th century. This area also is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The picture below shows a carving of a king’s head with three sides over the door of Svensgarden and is from the middle ages.

St. Mary’s church was along our walking path. It is Norway’s oldest remaining building.

St. Mary’s Church

We stopped for lunch/dinner at Egon restaurant. It was a quaint place with actual candles that were lit! We had to be careful with our menus that we didn’t get them near the flame!