Steve Van Zandt (‘Miami Steve’) isn’t just Bruce Springsteen’s guitar sidekick and an idol for bandana-wearers everywhere, he is also a fine comic actor.
He starred in a terrific TV show, Lilyhammer, (the misspelling is deliberate), about a New York mobster who is relocated under witness protection to Norway because he liked the look of the place when he watched the 1994 Winter Olympics.
You get the pitch: tough-talking gangster rubs up against kindly, courteous, reserved Norwegians. But if Norway’s good enough for Steve, it’s good enough for any of us.
Breathtaking: The Daily Mail’s Roger Alton boarded the Viking Jupiter in Tromso for its ‘Into the Midnight Sun’ cruise. One of the highlights was voyaging through the Sunnylvsfjorden fjord and past the Seven Sisters waterfall, pictured
Certainly, after a seaborne swing along the towns and fjords of the spectacular Norwegian coast, I can see exactly why people fall in love with this remarkable part of the world.
The prices might be eye-watering but the landscapes are jaw-dropping, the people delightful and the weather is out of this world. It is early July and we’re here to experience the midnight sun when, for a couple of months, because of the angle of the Earth, the sun never sets. I want to find someone mowing the lawn at 1am.
We fly from Oslo to Tromso, where we will board Viking Jupiter for its ‘Into the Midnight Sun’ cruise. There is just enough time to explore Tromso, where light floods the streets as we head to a student bar for late-night snacks (pancakes and beer).
On the way back to the hotel, the bars are full and the streets packed with people heading home in broad daylight.
Next morning, we tour the city and neighbouring countryside, with its meadows full of wildflowers, lilac and blossoming lupins amid the bracken.
Tromso, known as the gateway to the Arctic, has some outstanding modern architecture, notably the awesome Arctic Cathedral with its massive overlapping concrete triangles and soaring white roof giving the feel of a vast iceberg.
Tromso (pictured), known as the gateway to the Arctic, has some outstanding modern architecture, Roger reveals
One of the most photographed buildings in Tromso is the ‘awesome’ Arctic Cathedral, with its ‘massive overlapping concrete triangles and soaring white roof giving the feel of a vast iceberg’
And if you go for a bike ride, don’t worry about bumping into a reindeer: they are surly beasts but very used to people and not at all fazed when you pedal into view.
Boarding the Viking Jupiter is plain sailing (sorry) and after settling into a comfortable state room, it’s time for a taste of Scandinavia at the Chef’s Table, featuring reindeer consomme, salmon and lamb farikal (literally, ‘sheep in cabbage’, which is much nicer than it sounds — it’s Norway’s national dish).
The vessel is relatively compact, with only 900 passengers, so it’s easy to get to know people. There’s Liane from Milwaukee in the U.S., for instance, who likes to nip up on deck for a quick smoke. Post-divorce, she seems to be on the lookout for a Scandi hunk.
There are cinemas and theatres, world- class cooking in several restaurants and activities galore. I plump for the wine-tasting over the scarf-folding workshop and enjoy the lectures, including one from an astronaut and an account of the real-life wartime Heroes Of Telemark.
We sail into the beautiful Lofoten islands, stretching 120 miles into the Norwegian Sea, all tall mountains, wide valleys and long, long beaches.
A Viking cruise ship in the stunning Geirangerfjord, which is a UN heritage site, ‘and rightly so’
Roger sails into the ‘beautiful’ Lofoten islands (pictured), which stretch 120 miles into the Norwegian Sea
The little village of Geiranger has a population of just 250. It is at the head of the wonderful Geirangerfjord, which is a UN heritage site, and rightly so.
On one side the Seven Sisters waterfall cascades some 1,000ft down the mountainside in seven gushing gullies.
Legend has it there were once just six sisters but a local farmer dug out an extra channel to create the seventh.
In Bergen, they have a joke: a tourist, baffled by the constant rain since she arrived, stops a young boy and asks if it ever stops raining. ‘I don’t know,’ he replies. ‘I’m only 13.’
It does actually rain here for 240 days a year — but when we visit on the last day of our cruise, it’s baking, with blue skies, deep blue sea and the sun glinting on the wooden buildings of Bryggen wharf and the busy fish market. It’s Norway’s second city, founded in 1070.
The place is as clean and fresh as a Norwegian dawn. Thinking about it, wasn’t Britain supposed to be a bit like Norway once we had left the EU? If so, bring it on.
Roger travelled with Viking Cruises (vikingcruises.co.uk), which has a 15-day sailing from London to Bergen via Edinburgh, Scotland’s Shetland and Orkney Islands, Tromso, Lofoten and Bergen, from £5,290 per person (including flight from Bergen). Cabins available for 2023 sailings in June and July.