Christmas Cruise to the Northern Lights in Norway Hamburg
About Hamburg, Germany
- Experience the magic of Christmas and New Year’s along the Norwegian coast
- Spend five days above the Arctic Circle, in the Auroral Zone
- Expedition cruise in a cabin of your choice
- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurants Aune and Fredheim
- Fine-dining À la carte restaurant Lindstrøm is included for suite guests
- Complimentary tea and coffee
- Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
- Complimentary reusable water bottle to fill at onboard water refill stations
- English-speaking Expedition Team who organize and guide activities, both on board and ashore
- Range of included activities
- Experts from the Expedition Team present detailed lectures on a variety of topics
- Use of the ship’s Science Center which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
- The Citizen Science program allows guests to contribute to current scientific research
- The onboard professional photographer will give tips and tricks for taking the best landscape and wildlife photos
- The ship has hot tubs, a panoramic sauna, and outdoor and indoor gyms
- Participate in informal gatherings with the crew, such as daily recaps and the next day’s preparations
- Escorted landings with small boats (RIBs)
- Trekking poles and head lamps available, if necessary
- Complimentary wind- and water-resistant expedition jacket
- Expedition photographers will help configure your camera settings before landings
- International flights
- Travel protection
- Baggage handling
- Optional shore excursions with our local partners
- Optional small-group activities with our Expedition Team
- Optional treatments in the onboard wellness and spa area
- All planned activities are subject to weather and ice conditions
- Excursions and activities are subject to change
- Please ensure you can meet all entry and boarding requirements
- No gratuities are expected
Sailing toward Christmas and New Year’s in Norway - Hamburg
We set our course north from Hamburg toward the magical, snow-covered landscape of the Norwegian coast, on the hunt for the Northern Lights. You can also look forward to discovering wonderful Norwegian Christmas traditions along the way.
Once you board the ship, pick up your complimentary expedition jacket, and settle into your cabin, before attending a mandatory safety drill.
When the ship sets sail, stretch your sea legs and explore MS Otto Sverdrup, your cozy home away from home. Let the salty sea air envelop you our on deck or watch the world pass you by from the Explorer Lounge and Bar—perhaps with a relaxing glass of wine! Your Christmas and New Year’s adventure to the Arctic is officially underway!
After the first of many delicious dinners and a welcome toast by the captain, you’ll meet your expert Expedition Team. They’ll be your knowledgeable lecturers, warm hosts, and good-natured guides throughout your journey. Many of them grew up and live in the places you’ll visit, and they are passionate about sharing their homes with you—especially during this special season.
But first and foremost, they’ll keep you safe and sound. Their first priority will be to run through important health and safety information with you and your shipmates.
Christmas comes early - At sea
This day at sea gives you all the time you’ll need to ease into your journey. Start enjoying the range of onboard facilities such as the hot tubs, the sauna, and the indoor gym.
The Expedition Team will begin their series of insightful lectures over in the Science Center. Each member of the team specializes in a different subject. You’ll see that they are treasure troves of stories and information. They’ll share their extensive knowledge on the places, Christmas traditions, history, and natural phenomena you are likely to experience.
Our captain’s goal is to bring us into Bergen the next day. Nonetheless, when the wind and waves of the North Sea are involved—especially in the winter season—nothing is set in stone. This is all part and parcel of the expedition experience, adding extra suspense and excitement to your adventure.
As in Germany and several other European countries, Norwegians celebrate Christmas on December 24th, rather than the 25th. We’ll find a place with calm waters to enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner. The menu will be inspired by the same Christmas dinner Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen enjoyed on his expedition to the North Pole aboard the original Fram in 1893. It was also the year Hurtigruten was founded.
Our chefs will be busy preparing rich oxtail soup, traditional fish terrine, succulent reindeer with tangy lingonberry marmalade, stewed cloudberries, and kransekake, a Norwegian confectionary made of almonds. Christmas meals are usually washed down with a generous glass (or more) of local aquavit and beer. God jul to all!
An unforgettable Christmas - Bergen
Depending on the weather when crossing the North Sea, we aim to arrive in Bergen in the afternoon. Bergen is our first port of call in Norway and certainly one of its finest.
Sitting in a picturesque location near several islands in the fjord, it’s also known as the ‘City of Seven Mountains’. Houses line the hillsides, nestled among snow-covered trees.
Founded in 1070 A.D., Bergen was Norway’s capital for many years and a key member of the Hanseatic League of trade cities. You’ll see that its local character, heritage, and charm is still thriving.
One such place is the historic UNESCO-listed Bryggen district, with its colorful wooden wharfs. The area, which dates back to the 14th century, now houses boutique stores and sits across from Bergen’s famous fish market.
The shops and market will most likely be shut for Christmastime and the streets and squares fairly empty. Thus, the city is yours! Explore it at your whim.
Begin to understand the city by admiring its architecture. Keep your eyes peeled for street art in the narrow cobblestone streets that are decked out in festive decorations and fairy lights.
From the fjord to the mountaintop - Outside Loen
Start the day with a scenic cruise into the Nordfjord. Early in the morning, we’ll pass by Hornelen, Europe’s highest sea cliff. You’ll spot numerous old fishing communities located along the fjord that actually date back to pre-Viking times.
As you might expect, today’s lectures center on Norway’s geology, including the formation of its fjords, mountains, and glaciers. You might also learn more about the Vikings who used to inhabit the region; their thirst for exploration still beats in the hearts of Norwegians today.
Thanks to the small size of our expedition ship, we can take you through straits and channels that larger vessels can’t navigate. You’ll be that much closer to the fjords and mountains the Norwegian coast is so famous for.
Our small ships also mean better access to small communities that few get to visit, giving you an intimate glimpse of the Norwegian culture and way of life. One such place is Loen, and we expect to dock around noon.
Loen’s setting is simply stunning. It sits in the shadow of Mount Skåla, at the very heart of the Nordfjord and near Jostedalsbreen, the mighty Jostedal Glacier. It’s also home to some of the oldest farms in all of Norway, pre-dating even the advent of Christianity in the country.
You might have the opporutnity to participate in optional winter activities here such as snowshoeing or sledding. Time- and weather-permitting, you might also have an opportunity to do some thrilling winter kayaking on the fjord.
Approaching the Arctic Circle - At sea
On this day at sea, spend time in the ship’s lounge, soak in a hot tub, or step out on deck. Whatever you do, don’t take your eyes off the scenery as we sail through Helgeland County.
Count the peaks of the Seven Sisters mountain range, long fabled to be the petrified bodies of seven troll sisters caught out at sunrise. Then contemplate the curious Torghatten Mountain, with a distinct hole right through its middle. Local legend has it that the mountain was a troll king’s hat, which turned to stone when it was pierced by an arrow.
We have now reached the halfway mark of your expedition along Norway’s long coastline. You’re not far from the Arctic Circle! This point of the trip is an exciting time, as the farther north we sail, the greater your chances are of seeing the Northern Lights.
This natural phenomenon occurs when charged particles carried by solar wind disturb the Earth’s upper atmosphere, creating mesmerizing ripples and rays. The end result is a cosmic light show of dazzling, dancing color. Our route along the Norwegian coast will take us directly under the Auroral Zone, a prime area for viewing the Northern Lights. We hope for multiple sightings of the Northern Lights in different locations.
The weather in northern Norway is noticeably colder, and the amount of snow will steadily increase as well, making the landscapes seem brighter. Depending on when you sail in the winter season, daylight hours will be short, and will shorten even more as you approach the Arctic Circle.
It’s not complete darkness, though—you’ll be one of the few to experience the very atmospheric ‘blue hour’. This extended twilight can last several hours. As the winter sun glows just below the horizon, it bathes Norway’s fjords and mountains in a dreamy cobalt-blue light.
The Expedition Team will continue their onboard lectures, ranging from local folklore and fairy tales to the history of navigation, from lighthouses to satellites, along the coast. You might also learn about the concept of friluftsliv, the quintessentially Norwegian love of the outdoors. You can also pick up tips from the professional onboard expedition photographer about how best to capture the Northern Lights when they appear.
Winter in the Arctic - Svolvær
There are just a few places on Earth where you can sail north of the Arctic Circle during wintertime. The Norwegian coast is one of them The ship officially crosses the Arctic Circle sometime in the morning. In the tradition of Norwegian sailors, we’ll mark the occasion by inviting you on deck for a special ceremony.
As you approach the Lofoten Archipelago, the sight of the massive wall of mountains and dramatic peaks rising up out of the sea is something you’ll never forget. Serene fishing villages sit nestled in sheltered coves, which are even more charming when they’re dusted with snow—and especially with the Northern Lights swirling above, if we’re lucky!
Then we’ll sail along the Vestfjord to arrive that afternoon in Svolvær, Lofoten’s largest town. You’ll be greeted by rows of rorbuer (fishing huts) and wooden racks called hjell dotted along the shore. Here, locally caught cod is dried and turned into stockfish, a prized local delicacy.
If the shops and art galleries along the seafront are open, pick up some local caviar or handcrafted candles—or even handblown glass—as souvenirs. You may even be able to rent a kicksled for a traditional ride through town (you power yourself by kicking the ground with your leg and foot).
From the dock, it’s a short walk to your included visit to the multicolored Magic Ice bar. The former fish-freezing warehouse is filled with ice sculptures depicting life in Lofoten and Viking culture. Enjoy a signature drink to warm you up—served in an ice glass, of course!
Led by your expert Expedition Team, you can join optional excursions to snowshoe or hike amid the spectacular Lofoten scenery in the Polar Night, lit by headlamps and perhaps even by the Northern Lights themselves.
On the lookout for the Northern Lights - Alta
Alta lies in the vast wilderness of Troms and Finnmark County, well above the Arctic Circle at 70 degrees north. Welcome to the turning point of your expedition and one of the northernmost towns in the world, with a population of about 10,000.
We’ll arrive here in the early afternoon. The plan is to stay past midnight to stargaze and watch for the Northern Lights in Alta’s sky. The town is directly beneath the Auroral Oval, a zone known for consistent Northern Lights activity. If the sky isn’t overcast and the conditions are right, get ready for nature’s most spectacular show …
You’ll learn more about the Aurora at the modern Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta, situated at the end of the pedestrian street all decked out for Christmas. This titanium-clad building and its spiral belfry dominate the skyline here. It’s even more impressive when illuminated at night.
An interactive exhibition in the cathedral chronicles how Norwegian scientist Kristian Birkeland established Alta as the epicenter for groundbreaking Northern Lights research in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You’ll also be treated to a classical concert in the cathedral as part of your visit. It’s perfect for the holiday season!
‘Buorit Juovllat!’ That’s Merry Christmas in North Sámi. Troms and Finnmark County form part of the traditional territory of the indigenous Sámi people, whose livelihoods still revolve around semi-nomadic reindeer herding. Not far from Alta is Máze, a Sámi village located along the Kautokeino River, which you can visit to experience Sámi culture and food as part of an optional excursion.
When more snow falls and deep winter arrives, Alta is prime territory for visits to ice hotels, dog sledding, and snowmobiling. The ice hotel in Sorrisniva, for example, has a new design every year and is open to visitors for tours. You can also join optional excursions to go snowshoeing and hiking in the incredible tundra wilderness.
At Europe’s edge - Honningsvåg
Start the day by arriving at the small town of Honningsvåg. You’ll visit one of Europe’s northernmost points as part of an included excursion.
The scenic bus ride from Honningsvåg brings you past small bays and tiny villages, then crosses a mountain plateau before arriving at the spectacular North Cape. At 71°10’21´N, it is just 1,300 miles away from the Geographic North Pole, with only the Svalbard Archipelago in between.
Stand at the cliff’s edge and gaze across the sparkling sea. The North Cape is likely the closest you’ll get to the top of the world. Snap the obligatory selfie at the Globe Monument before visiting the North Cape Hall for exhibits and a short film chronicling the cape’s history. Back in Honningsvåg, stroll along the pretty harbor, and check out the charming shops, houses, and church. Like many towns in northern Norway, fishing is the primarily industry and source of income here. Local restaurants offer fresh fish and seafood, with king crab on the menu all year round. This is the ship’s turning point and from here, we start our return trip southbound.
Sorrisniva - Tromsø
Surrounded by nature’s magical beauty, your Yuletide adventure continues on New Year’s Eve as we look out for humpback whales out on deck or from the Explorer Lounge. These majestic giants are known to frequent the winter waters here, feeding on the abundant herring. The Expedition Team will be on the lookout and alert you to any sightings.
Our next stop is Tromsø, the capital of the Arctic. We’ll arrive around lunchtime and spend the day and evening here exploring its captivating history, culture, and bold architecture.
The city is especially gorgeous around Christmas, all spruced up with lights and decorations. One of the most striking landmarks in Tromsø is the Arctic Cathedral, especially when it’s lit up at night. Its eye-catching and massive stained-class window and modern architecture are well worth seeing up close.
Browse Tromsø‘s shops or try one of its many restaurants to sample the region’s fresh and locally sourced foods. Drop into a local bakery and try some seasonal julekake, Norwegian Christmas bread, made with raisins and orange peel.
For more festive spirit, join the friendly locals in the town’s many pubs. Tromsø is home to the world’s northernmost brewery, Mack Bryggeri, which also runs Ølhallen, a popular and lively pub.
Your included activity here is a visit to the Polar Museum, housed in a converted 1830s warehouse on the seafront. You’ll enjoy exhibitions covering the city’s heritage as a base for the famous trappers Henry Rudi and Wanny Wolstad, the first female hunter in Svalbard.
You’ll also see how Tromsø played a crucial role in the expeditions of legendary explorers Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen. The Expedition Team’s lecture today may cover Norway’s polar history in more detail or maybe the nation’s many scientific achievements.
Other winter activities in Tromsø include optional excursions with our Expedition Team on nature hikes and by snowshoe in the surrounding hills, which offer panoramic Polar Night views of the city. Arctic Norway in winter also transforms the landscape into the ideal place for an exhilarating dog-sledding experience.
As we leave Tromsø in the afternoon, spend the evening out on deck hunting for the Northern Lights. For your exceptional New Year’s Eve dinner, expect caviar, king crab, and beef, salmon or nut-roast Wellington. Round it off with an aquavit sorbet, which will kick off the New Year’s Eve celebrations throughout the ship during the rest of the evening.
As the party counts down to midnight, the sky above might just spring alight with both the Northern Lights and a fireworks display. Not a bad way to welcome in the new year!
Starting the year in stunning scenery - Reine
Start the new year immersed in the stunning beauty of the Lofoten Islands. In the morning, we’ll dock at the idyllic village of Reine.
This is where red-painted rorbuer, traditional fishing huts, covered in snow, cling to a string of islands beneath sharp granite mountain ranges. The nearly 1,500-foot-tall Reinebringen is one of the most distinctive peaks and is especially dramatic with a dusting of snow.
The combination of setting and color makes Reine one of the most photographed landscapes in all of Norway. Cross your fingers that the Northern Lights are active above the village, which would be the cherry on top of this little slice of paradise.
After marveling at the scenery and the pretty town of Reine, you’ll move to today’s included activity. A 30-minute bus ride will take you to Å, one of the best-preserved traditional fishing villages in Norway. Explore the tiny village as part of a guided tour, discovering the importance and evolution of fishing in Lofoten over the past 250 years.
Later, we’ll return to Reine, where you may have an opportunity to do some hiking with the Expedition Team, or even try some winter kayaking. These views will make those options tempting.
Expedition day! - At sea
Today, you can explore the area around the windswept islands of mid-Norway, off the coast of Trøndelag. The islands facing the North Sea stand in stark contrast to the sheltered fjords, as you will see by its stunted trees that have been bent by the strong winds. Still, small communities choose to live here.
Our plan is to explore one of these islands, either by anchoring off one of the islands or sheltered in a small bay. Our small boats (RIBs) will take you ashore, where you can explore the local nature and culture.
Keep in mind that the coastline can be rough at any time of the year. If the weather prevents us from going ashore this far from the coast, we’ll find an alternative landing or port for the day and make sure you have the best experience possible, based on that day’s weather conditions.
Frøya is one of the possible islands we will explore. Many kinds of seabirds like to rest, nest, and winter in this area, including seagulls, cormorants, ducks, and sea eagles. If we get to go ashore, you may also see seals, mink, otter, hare and deer.
You may also participate in optional activities such as hiking and kayaking and join the Expedition Team in lectures ranging from settlement patterns in Norway, how coastal navigation has evolved throughout history, and oceanography.
Art Nouveau architecture and an aquarium - Ålesund
Welcome to the charming coastal city of Ålesund! This small city shines from the shores of a thin island chain. Its waterfront buildings, once wharves and warehouses, are now charming apartments painted in yellows and reds.
Stroll through Ålesund’s cobblestone streets and admire the spires, towers, and ornate buildings rising up around you. Look closely and spot the variety of stone statues carved into the buildings. After a devastating fire in 1904, much of the city was rebuilt in the most fashionable architectural style of the time: Art Nouveau.
The extensive project was partly funded by Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, who enjoyed vacationing in the Sunnmøre region. He was such a fan that he is known to have visited Norway at least 22 times! Approximately 20 master builders and 30 Norwegian architects, educated in Trondheim and Berlin, drew inspiration from all over Europe when designing the many buildings that stand here today.
Ålesund is Norway’s fishing capital, and is also the site of the Atlantic Sea Park, recently designated as Norway’s first marine science center. A visit here is your included activity for the day.
A spacious Humboldt penguin park is built into the coastal landscape at Tueneset, along with Europe’s biggest seal pool and an underwater observatory. The park’s Otter Island is home to three sociable and adorable otters. You can call them by their names: Nusse, Muffe, and Pia.
There’s also a decent hike to the summit of nearby Mount Aksla, giving you views over the city and the other islands. At the top, refuel with a snack at the café.
We recommend snacking on a svele, a thick, crescent-shaped pancake popular in these parts. To add a bold Norwegian twist (and feel like a local), add a slice of brunost, Norwegian brown cheese, so it melts in the middle.
‘Queen of the Fjords’ - Rosendal or Sundal
The Hardangerfjord, located in southwest Norway, is the second-longest fjord in Norway, after the Sognefjord. If the Sognefjord is considered the ‘King of the Fjords,’ then the Hardangerfjord would certainly be the Queen. Enjoy the views as we sail deep into famous fjord, stretching 111 miles long. We plan to explore the villages of Sunndal or Rosendal, depending on the weather conditions.
From Sunndal, situated near Bondhusbreen, the Bondhus Glacier, you can explore the area on a scenic hike or by kayak with the Expedition Team as optional excursions. The small, charming village of Rosendal has only 800 inhabitants. Just to its east sits the Folgefonna Glacier. You can learn about one of Norway’s largest glaciers at the village visitor’s center.
Whether we stop in Sunndal or Rosendal, make sure to stop into one of the villages’ small cafés to sample the delicious local food. The hillsides of the Hardangerfjord are home to 40% of all of Norway’s fruit orchards. The region is therefore famous for its apples, from jams and juice to award-winning cider, which one wine critic described as ‘Nordic champagne’.
Headed for Hamburg - At sea
The end of your expedition is on the horizon. By this stage of your journey, you’ll likely regard your fellow explorers as friends, after finding so much in common in your interests and passion for nature.
Chat with your shipmates over a snack at the bistro-style Fredheim restaurant and share your favorite stories from the expedition so far. Enjoy drinks at the Explorer Bar over friendly banter and share stories of past adventures. You might even spot a few members of the crew and Expedition Team here too.
If you’d rather spend this last day at sea in quiet contemplation, just check out your camera roll—you’ll hopefully have multiple images of the Northern Lights and Christmas decorations to sift through. Or head to the gym to clear your mind and take stock of everything you’ve seen and experienced, then relax one last time in the soothing sauna.
The end of an enchanting expedition - Hamburg
The time has come to bid a fond farewell to the ship, the captain, the crew, the Expedition Team, and your new-found friends.
As you head ashore, you’ll take with you special memories of Norway at Christmastime: wonderful fjords, fascinating towns and cities, friendly people, and the magical Northern Lights.
We look forward to welcoming you aboard again soon!