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NORWAY'S NORTHERN LIGHTS

Northern Lights Shine Brightly Over Norway

Are the “northern lights” on your bucket list? This may be the year to take that Norwegian Coastal Cruise and revel in the dancing lights of the aurora borealis. NASA predicts that “Northern Light” activity will be stronger than at any other time in the past 50 years, making this a perfect time to take that long delayed special voyage along Norway’s west coast.

According to scientists the increased activity of “Northern Lights” is caused by the Solar Maximum – a period when the sun’s magnetic field on the solar equator rotates at a slightly faster pace than at the solar poles. Particles streaming from the sun hurtle toward the earth and when they collide with molecules of oxygen and nitrogen an explosion of energy, in the form of light and color occurs.

Hurtigruten’s classic cruise along Norway’s 1,250 mile west coast courses its’ way between Bergen in the south and the arctic town of Kirkennes, high above the Arctic Circle. A variety of 6 to 12 day itinerary allows great flexibility in selecting your destinations allowing you to choose from some 34 unqiue ports that include Tromso, the Lofoten Islands and Trondheim with it’s snow-capped wooden harbor buildings.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to take the cruise from Kirkennes in the north to Bergen in the south on Hurtigruten’s ship the NordNorge. This was an amazing journey because it allowed me to both see and experience how Norwegians travel along their country’s west coast. At small ports passengers disembarked and embarked in a carefully choreographed bustle, leaving just enough time to get a quick overview of the town, perhaps do a little shopping and be back on board ready to head to the next port. I can’t wait to try this again and the call of the Northern Lights is very tempting.

There is a wonderful intimacy about these coastal ships. They are modern in décor and attitude but have managed to keep a cozy feel with small bars, nooks for reading, a good size dining room and lots of outdoor deck space. Don't look for a casino or high energy stage shows with dancing girls, these ships are for those looking to reconnect with nature and the quiet beauty of a coastal cruise.

In addition to experiencing the elusive aurora borealis as few can – along the coast, where the lights are the strongest – passengers are privy to a host of onboard activities, educational lectures about the Northern Lights and local history, and optional excursions that delve deeper into the areas visited.

Fares between November 1 and March 14, the ideal time to see the Northern Lights, range from to $2,698 to $7,569 per person, double.

A variety of optional excursions brings to life the diverse ports visited, from Art Nouveau Alesund and the small fishing villages in the rugged Lofoten Islands to the medieval Viking capital of Trondheim and Norway's "Paris of the North," Tromsø. How about trying an adrenaline-fueled husky ride that takes you through a frozen landscape of ocean, mountains and open plateaus on the “Dog Sledding” expedition in Tromsø; or watch as a guide plunges through the ice to catch and then cooks giant king crabs on the “King Crab Safari” in Kirkenes; or be immersed in ancient Viking culture with the “Lofotr Viking Feast,” which includes a visit to the Viking museum and a real Viking feast, complete with home-brewed mead.

Many of these special activities have limited space and can be booked up quickly. So do as many experienced cruisers do and pre-book your excursions prior to departure.

Rates are subject to availability and include accommodation in cabin or suite of your choice, full board, educational lectures and all aspects of the onboard program; flights, transfers, optional excursions and cruise fuel surcharge are additional.

Hurtigruten is a world leader in expedition cruising, sailing to the most remote of destinations including Antarctica, Greenland and the Arctic’s Spitsbergen as well as year round along Norway's coast and Europe in the spring and fall. For more information on all of these adventures go to Hurtigruten's visitor-friendly web site, www.hurtigruten.us.

Don’t forget, this year the Northern Lights are predicted to be at their brightest and most active in more than fifty years.

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