I’m going on my first exploration cruise!
In a few days, I will be embarking on my first ever exploration cruise. I’m sure this will be packed with loads of fun and adventure in the Arctic. I will be joining the Hurtigruten exploration cruise starting from Kirkenes, located in the northern part of Norway near to the border of Russia, and finishing in the scenic town of Trondheim in the beautiful country of Norway. Our voyage will be exploring the Arctic region and the Norwegian fjords. This trip will be the launching the re-birth of the newly refurbished fleet of Hurtigruten MS Kong Harald, named after the present king of Norway. You can check the highlights of the exploration cruise here.
On the first leg of our journey, we will be staying in Snow Hotel in Kirkenes (YES! complete with the Ice rooms and Ice bar). I’m looking forward to feeling what is it like to be Elsa in Frozen.
Ok, back to our exploration cruise. These are the things that I’ve done to prepare for this once in a lifetime bucket list voyage to the Arctic region.
Research about the destination
Prior to the invitation of Hurtigruten to join the exploration cruise, I already had my eyes on Norway. This land where once the Vikings lived is one of my dream destinations. Research is the one of the keys for you to learn and appreciate the culture, history, and traditions of the place that you are about to visit. This will also give you a sense of purpose and goals during your trip. As you go along with you journey, you will be able to check all the awesome things to do and see in your list.
Read different blog posts, review website (e.g. Tripadvisor), e- travel magazines, travel guides, join a reliable online travel community and travel vlogs (video blogs). Some travellers would prefer to leave it all to chance as they go on their trip. I reckon it’s better that you know at least something about the place even before you go there.
Safety and protection come first. I never go on a trip without travel insurance. Better to be safe than sorry. Always check the terms and conditions of your insurance to see if they will cover your activities while you are on the exploration cruise. You might need to pay a little extra if you will be doing extreme sports or activities. Here in the UK, you can also get an additional health card whenever you travel to any European countries. This European Health Insurance Card can help you to access a reduced cost healthcare in Europe in the case of emergency. You can apply for this card from the NHS website for free.
Exploring one of the coldest regions on the planet is a challenge. Layers of clothing are needed to keep your body well insulated and warm. The types of clothing that you will be using in an exploration cruise can take so much room in your luggage. Exploration cruise lines like Hurtigruten, encourage their guests to wear comfortable and warm clothing. Sporty and outdoor outfits are entirely accepted.
Invest in a good windproof and waterproof jacket. I use down feather jackets as they are warm yet light, windproof and waterproof. It is easy to pack away whenever I travel, so no more bulky and heavy winter coats.
For the tops, I have a good variety of fleece material, wool blend, and Uniqlo Heattech tops. This will surely give your body an extra layer of insulation. For the trousers, I use the outdoor ski type because these come with a fleece lining and have loads of pockets. For extra insulation for my legs, I use heat retaining tights.
The footwear is another thing you need to invest in; this can make or break you. Safe and reliable footwear can help you to get a grip on the icy conditions in the polar regions. Good outdoor shoes or boots with deep ridges on the sole (this will give you extra grip on the ground) are ideal. In some scenarios, you will be wearing crampons for safety purposes (be extra careful when you got this on, the pointy ends of the crampons are sharp).
The accessories for this trip will be a scarf, ear muffs or winter headband, hats, gloves and socks. Woollen materials are ideal. However, this might take up some room in your luggage. There are thermal socks that you can use to keep your feet nice and toasty.
As a travel blogger, my gadgets are vital while I’m on the move. My laptop will be one of the top priorities for catching up with my family, social media and email. Wifi is available on board and at most of the ports. It is also worth checking with your mobile provider to see if they offer a roaming package with data allowance, or get a local sim card in the airport and activate it to get some data allowance.
Since I will be travelling solo on this exploration cruise, I prepared my tripod and monopod ready (this will be my official travel buddy to capture the awesome moments).
I will be taking with me my Olympus Pen camera; this will be my first time taking this camera on a project/press trip. Just make sure all the memory cards are clean and ready to go and all the camera lenses are in good condition. I always have a spare battery with me; it comes in handy when you are out and about exploring. Action cameras (e.g. GoPro) are really popular at the moment when it comes to capturing all your adventure moments. Action cameras are handy for capturing underwater, active, wet and harsh conditions. In this exploration cruise we do have daily excursions where the action cameras will be useful to capture the moments in the vast Arctic region. I also have a spare battery for my GoPro; I strongly suggest that you invest in one. GoPro accessories are also helpful in capturing your awesome pictures especially if you are taking photos of water and snow. The glare from the water and snow can ruin the photo, camera filters will do the trick. In most of my videos and pictures from Iceland last year I used the GoPro filters from PolarPro.
The power bank is a life saver when you are about to run out of battery juice in your gadgets when you are on the road. I use an outdoor (rainproof and dustproof) power bank with the capacity of 7800mAh. A small phone or digital camera battery can hold between 1650mAh – 3200 mAh. Batteries can easily get drained in the cold conditions.
Always put your travel adaptors on top of your gadget list. Adaptors can sometimes be forgotten because of the chaos of your packing rituals. Some people advice to bring an extension cable or a multi-socket adaptor, however, as part of the safety regulations on board this is not encouraged as electrical overloading can cause a significant problem for the ship. If you need to have one, always use it to a minimal load and don’t leave it unattended for a long time.
Bits and Bobs
Over the counter medicines
I always bring different sorts of over the counter medicines like pain killers, anti- diarrhoea tablets, anti- allergy tablets etc. For this exploration cruise, I also include in my list the motion sickness tablet. It maybe over the top, but better be safe than sorry. I just want to enjoy my time during the exploration cruise.
In this exploration cruise, we will be exploring Norway. Norwegian Krona is the local currency; I’ve already exchanged some Sterling to Krona before my departure. Always check your destination’s currency. Spare cash on hand will also be handy. All the cruise lines now accept card payments, you can open a tab against your room and settle it on your departure. So all you have to do is relax and enjoy the trip.
Excursions are available throughout the voyage. If you prefer to have this pre-arranged, you can check on the cruise website for any offers or availability. It is advisable to book this in advance as they are selling like hotcakes. If you are more into an independent exploration of the local area, make sure to make note of the local time and the departure of the ship.
Special thanks to Hurtigruten UK for inviting us to join this fantastic voyage in exploring the Arctic region, Norwegian Fjords and other coastal towns in Norway.
About the Writer
Ryazan Tristram is named after a Russian city near Moscow. The Miss Zan-shine of Everything Zany – A Photography, Lifestyle and Dual Citizen Travel Blog. She likes to travel, history, meet people & try exotic foods! Planning to explore more countries with her D.I.Y trips as a Dual Citizen (British – Filipina). Follow her travels on Facebook and Instagram.