Holiday review: Northern Lights cruise

Witnessing the Northern Lights is a lifelong ambition for many. On our recent group cruise to Arctic Norway, seven members were lucky enough to tick this spectacular off their bucket list. We invited first-time cruisers, Elizabeth and Anne, to tell us all about it.

Elizabeth and Anne standing on the deck watching the northern lights
Anne and Elizabeth taking in the beauty of the Northern Lights

Arctic ahoy!

Having only joined the Society’s Ipswich Branch last year, Elizabeth Smith and Anne Watson were keen to get more out of their membership and joined five experienced Oddfellows cruisers on an unforgettable trip which departed from Southampton on Saturday 11 February 2023.

They were fully supported through the booking process by organiser and cruise host, Wendy Atkins, who is also a member of the Oddfellows’ Ipswich Branch.

To help build the duo’s cruise-confidence, Wendy also shared her comprehensive list of ‘Hints and Tips’ with them prior to packing.

The pair arrived in Southampton by private transfer to begin their 12-night voyage on the Bolette, one of Fred. Olsen’s largest ships.

Elizabeth says she and Anne were not sure what to expect, however they soon found their experience aboard the 1,400 capacity ship to be a fantastic one.

“Our luggage was already outside our cabin on arrival,” Elizabeth said. “We had booked an outside cabin on deck two. It was larger than I expected, twin beds, a sofa, and with plenty of storage and hanging spaces.”

Anne and Elizabeth stood up smiling at the camera
(L to R) Anne and Elizabeth enjoyed their first experience of a cruise

Experiences and excursions

The voyage of discovery began with a day and a half at sea, which provided ample time for passengers to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings and enjoy the plentiful activities on board. A useful ‘What’s On’ leaflet was left in each cabin every evening to help Elizabeth and Anne plan their upcoming time.

Elizabeth said: “We tried singing, craft, cookery, demonstrations, and bingo. We also took advantage of the library and helped complete the jigsaw puzzles.

“Our group enjoyed meeting up in the evening in the Bloomsbury Restaurant, followed by the entertainment and evening quiz. We managed to tie first on a couple of occasions but lost out on the tie breaker!”

People raising a glass at the dinner table
There’s lots to enjoy while on an Oddfellows-hosted cruise

As the Bolette reached the numerous ports along its route, including Alta, Tromsø, Navik, Stavanger, and Ålesund, Elizabeth and Anne got the chance to venture ashore. They opted to book onto tours, although some of the other travellers decided to go it alone and explore beautiful Norwegian towns and cities independently.

Elizabeth said: “For me, the highlight was the cable car in Tromsø. Anne particularly enjoyed visiting Stavanger with the pretty shops and harbour, and she also enjoyed a mug of hot chocolate each time we returned to the ship from a tour.”

Other excursions available to the passengers included a thrilling husky ride, sampling the lifestyle of the Sami people, and a visit to the beautiful cathedral in Tromsø.

Memories to last a lifetime

“Of course, the main reason for booking the cruise was to see the Northern Lights,” Elizabeth added. “We were rewarded to see them having left Tromsø. Almost everyone was taking videos and photos, but I just wanted to stare at the sky. They were only visible for about 30 minutes but we were so grateful to see them.”

Overall, Elizabeth says, she and Anne had a “wonderful cruise”.

“The food was delicious, both in the Bloomsbury and View restaurants,” she said.

“And special mention must go to the crew. Everyone from the deckhands to the captain wanted to give us the best experience, particularly the cabin maids and restaurant and bar staff who were always friendly and very hardworking.

Ålesund harbour with tall buildings looking over the water
The beautiful town of Ålesund is just one of the numerous beautiful stops the group experienced

“A couple of weeks ago I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy being on a ship for 13 days, but I’m converted and will be booking another trip soon.”

Oddfellows Travel group holidays

Oddfellows Travel is just one of the many perks our members can take advantage of. Travelling in confidence and in good company is what it’s all about.

Find out exactly why our Oddfellows Travel group cruise host, Wendy Atkins, loves to holiday in this way in our The call of the cruise article.