A bonding experience: chasing the aurora as a solo traveller
KrisTina Kramer has sailed the Norwegian coast with us a total of 13 times, so far. Here, she describes her most incredible moments with the aurora, and offers her tips for solo travellers.
“In April 2017, when I was thinking about retirement, I decided to discover Norway by ship. It was the best decision I ever made,” explains KrisTina. “The moment I first set foot on the ship is a really special memory for me as I had never travelled by ship before. From that first trip, I fell in love with Norway and with Hurtigruten.”
Since then, the former nurse from Switzerland has never looked back, instead spending plenty of time looking up. While all her trips with us have given her memories to treasure, it’s her Northern Lights experiences that stand out. KrisTina is now a self-confessed aurora addict.
“I’ve witnessed the Northern Lights several times,” she says. “For me, there are no words that can describe the feeling of wonder I have when the aurora lights up the sky. Such a magnificent word doesn’t exist.”
KrisTina tells us about her experiences of chasing the Northern Lights, what it’s like to sail as a solo traveller, and why the two go so well together.
Can you remember the first time you saw the Northern Lights?
I was on the ship’s deck, close to midnight on New Year's Eve at sea in Northern Norway. You couldn’t have picked a more perfect time for the aurora to appear! The setting was pure magic.
Over Mehamn in the distance, there were fireworks going off… and high in the sky above them, filling the view, were the Northern Lights, almost dancing in response to the celebrations. Can you imagine that? I was speechless.
That sounds amazing! So, was your first Northern Lights display also the best display you’ve ever seen?
No, the best display I’ve been fortunate enough to see was in December 2019 on MS Polarlys, shortly after the ship left Berlevåg. I thought the sky was exploding. The Northern Lights were everywhere. In front of us, behind us, above us. It was incredible. I didn't know where to look! They were really green and they danced and danced and danced. It was pure rock 'n' roll in the sky.
As usual, I was travelling alone, but the passengers were all so enthusiastic. We communicated with each other in a "WOW" language, which was quite funny. It was so amazing. We all freaked out! It was so unbelievably great that, at some point, I stopped photographing the dancing aurora because I didn't want to miss a single second of the magic.
It was magical. A sense of pure joy that I was able to see this, and respect for nature for all the beauty it provides us with. The world is full of wonders, you just have to recognise them. There was no question of sleeping afterwards, I was far too excited.
Why do you think seeing the aurora from a ship is such a special experience?
It's completely dark, there's no light pollution – that's why you can see the Northern Lights so well. The atmosphere on the ship also plays a big role. People come for the Northern Lights and this positive energy is contagious. Because you are always in a different place, the chance of seeing the Northern Lights on several nights is perhaps slightly greater.
How did seeing the Northern Lights in real life compare with your expectation?
I knew that the Northern Lights in reality are not as intense in colour [as you might see in photographs or videos], but I couldn't imagine how they would appear in the sky. When I first saw them, they were a moving white cloud.
I knew they weren't as green as in the pictures, but I found the fact that they just looked like a moving mist a little disappointing. I hoped that would change – and it did. They were soon greenish with a red rim and began to dance. The magic was real!
They were worth the wait! Does a little patience help when chasing the aurora?
Patience is the magic word for seeing the Northern Lights, but I am anything but a patient person! When I saw the Northern Lights in Mehamn, I thought, “Wow, that was great” and then I went into my cabin. I couldn't sleep because I kept having images of the incredibly amazing Northern Lights in my head.
But I would probably have been better off staying outside because the aurora came back even stronger. But I didn't know that until later, when a passenger showed me photos taken an hour later. I could have slapped myself for not staying up!
Since then, I've stood outside waiting patiently until the aurora gives the main performance after the first little dance. A lot of the time, I'm alone on deck because most of the guests go back to their cabin, just like I did the first time, and so, sometimes, the lights dance their magical dance just for me.
What is the atmosphere like on board when the Northern Lights appear?
You can feel the excitement out on deck. Strangers greet you happily and start a conversation. I’ve made friends from all over the world this way and we still write or talk on the phone. When the lights appear, some go quiet while others just scream out loud from pure joy.
When the announcement goes out to cabins that there’s a Northern Lights occurrence, we all rush out on deck together. Sometimes, people are so excited and in such a hurry, that they forget their cabin key and lock themselves out. I’ve done it several times myself!
It sounds like a real bonding moment! What has your experience of meeting other travellers on board been like so far?
It is very easy to connect with other travellers if you wish. We have the same interests: Midnight Sun, animals, Polar Night, and Northern Lights. The people who come on Hurtigruten come for the nature and the peace and quiet.
What are your tips for solo travellers on The Coastal Express?
- Keep an eye on the Hurtigruten offers pages as there are always good offers for solo travellers.
- Depending on your ship there may be a singles table. Just ask to sit there for meals. If there isn’t a dedicated table, then you'll likely have friendly table neighbours.
- If you find it difficult to find a topic for a conversation, just start with the Northern Lights or the Midnight Sun. Everyone is interested in them, and just like that, the ice is broken.
Thank you for sailing with us, KrisTina, and for sharing your experiences and tips!
You’re welcome. I can’t imagine my life without Hurtigruten! I now know some of the crew on board and when I come on the ship I am treated like a member of the family. Although I’ve now moved to Norway without family or friends, I don't feel alone; my family is Hurtigruten.
Thank you, KrisTina. We love having you on board!