Food & Wine Lifestyle Travel Wellness & Spas

North of the Arctic Circle, about to board a luxury cruise ship

This is the ship the gal is about to board

Aha, a break from luxury hotels (a change of diet is good for anyone, take a brief respite from the love of your live, gal).  For the next two weeks, Girlahead looks at the best in luxury exploration cruising.

And since the satellite is unpredictable here north of the Arctic Circle, there will be ‘intermittent’ communication over the next fortnight.

This is because the gal is now on the luxury cruise ship Silver Explorer, the expedition vessel of Silversea.  The ship is waiting, in Tromsø harbour, north of the Arctic Circle, which is N 66 degrees 33.

Tromsø Harbour

Tromsø, with a population of nearly 69,000, is seventh largest city in Norway.  It is 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle and even in mid-August, mid-summer, in bright sunlight, people seem to be wearing anoraks – it has unbroken midnight sun May 20th through to July 20th, but to compensate it has two months of nothing but night, November to January.

Luxury in the arctic is sitting in the sun in an outdoor café, having a beer or a cup of hot chocolate (Norwegians love hot chocolate; my friend Erik has hot chocolate 24/7, it seems).  Walk around the harbour to look at the boats.

Walk past Radisson Blu Tromsø, the most luxurious international hotel in town (room 808 seems to be highly recommended for its views of the harbour and the city).

Looking up at the statue of Danish-born King Haakon VII of Norway

It is an international town.  Locals make so much money they can afford to travel.  Our cab driver ($60 one way, airport to city centre, less then 30 minutes) spends every February in northern Thailand, where he has a girlfriend.

Back home, he might go eat sushi on the harbour front – is it as good as the place where the gal did her PhD in sushi, in Tokyo?  Yes, there is wealth here.

As well as a sparkling three-floor glass building that is the city hall, see, nearby, a ten-foot statue of Haakon VII, the Danish-born first king of the ‘new’ Norway who ruled 1905-1957, with five years in exile in Britain during WWII.

At least there is plenty of fresh fish for the sushi, here above the Arctic Circle

Tromsø is a university town, though why it needs 2,500 ‘administrators’ for a student base of only 8,000 needs explanation.

Come here to learn about auroral light research, fishery science, saami culture and other disciplines.  Saami culture, is this related to the Inuit culture of Canada’s Northern Territories?

In Yellowknife, where William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, went last year, the gal was introduced to Inuit ‘Olympics’, which include pulling your opponent’s ears so hard that he/she screams, in which case you win.

A ship leaves harbour just before Silver Explorer....

Most of the city is on Tromsøva island. Climb up Rathausgat for the best view back down to the harbour, and Tromsø Bridge, built in 1960 to link the main city with its sibling across, to the east, on the mainland.

Up on the highest part of the island town, there are some old wooden clapboard houses – the oldest dates back to 1789. The house-proud put up patterned net curtains and make sure there are flowers on the inner window sills.

.. and finally we too sail, first under Tromsø Bridge

At the mainland end of the bridge is the so-called Arctic Cathedral, Tromsdal church built in 1965 (it is gleaming white, and looks like a tent). Sadly, there is no time to visit.

This luxury voyage is about to begin, but first we sail north, under the bridge, to a Shell depot to pick up fuel. This is a decidedly understated, natural cruise. If you want the hullaballoo of champagne and a big band to start a cruise, go downmarket.

This, a cruise that has 121 staff for 101 passengers, offers tasters of Heidsieck if you want them and no noise.  Most passengers, in anoraks – and Toni&Guy hair askew – are outside, watching the view as we sail away. This is style.